THE defence secretary has thrown his weight behind the bid to transform Barrow town centre following lobbying from MP John Woodcock.

Ben Wallace has written to communities secretary Robert Jenrick urging him to back Barrow’s plan because of the role an improved town centre can play in the shipyard’s drive to recruit and retain the workforce needed to deliver the Dreadnought programme on time.

Mr Wallace wrote: “I am writing to indicate my support for Barrow’s application for funding through the Future High Streets Fund and to highlight the critical role Barrow plays in supporting Defence and national security.

“The Dreadnought programme is designing and building four submarines to replace the current Vanguard Class and ensure the continuation of our fifty years of Continuous at Sea Deterrence out to the 2060s. Alongside industry, our own ability to recruit and retain a workforce is critical for the success of this endeavour. Initiatives to re-energise Barrow’s town centre will make it a more attractive place to live and work.

"For this reason, the Ministry of Defence fully support Barrow’s bid for funding through the Future High Streets Fund.”

Mr Woodcock raised the issue with Mr Wallace and BAE chief executive officer Charles Woodburn when they visited Barrow last month.

Mr Woodcock has been working closely with the council and local businesses to shape the bid.

He said: “Ben’s letter is a big vote of confidence in our plan to transform central Barrow.

“Barrow needs investment in our health, education and town centre. I have made it my mission to get the whole government to understand the importance of the submarine programme makes us a special case."