A COUNCIL cross-boundary collective is looking to bolster its team to help improve an already booming coastal economy.

A specialist is being recruited to support a pioneering project to release untapped economic potential around Morecambe Bay through investment in culture, including a Barrow’s creative people’s initiative.

The Lancaster and South Cumbria Economic Region (LSCER) was one of only two rural areas in the UK to be accepted by the Arts Council last year as an area to develop a ‘Cultural Compact’.

The joint submission by South Lakeland District Council, Lancaster City Council and Barrow Borough Council was approved by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) as part of a national pilot and was an early success for the three councils’ cross boundary partnership working, aiming to attract more investment and employment to support economic growth in the Morecambe Bay area.

Alison Clark, the Arts Council’s director for the North region, said: “We believe that arts and culture play an essential role in improving lives and wellbeing, developing communities and unlocking the economic potential for towns and cities.

“The collaboration between Lancaster and South Cumbria Economic Region (LSCER) will build effective networks across a broad range of partners and we look forward to the impact the Cultural Compact will bring.”

The role has been advertised with a brief to deliver an ambitious programme that will set the direction for The Bay Cultural Compact over the next five years, developing the area’s role as a “cultural and creative powerhouse’’ and identifying culture and creative sectors – already the UK’s largest growth business area - as a “catalyst for transformation and change.’’ Focussing on one of the LSCER’s key themes – Culture, Creative, and Visitor Economy – The Bay Cultural Compact will harness and look to develop the potential of the combined area’s natural and cultural landscape and assets.

This includes the proposed capital developments of Windermere Jetty and Wordsworth Grasmere in South Lakeland, and the development of Barrow’s Creative People and Places and the Islands and Bays of Barrow and Furness programmes. The Bay Cultural Compact will look to establish a cross-sector cultural partnership to bring together private, voluntary, and public organisations with representatives from industry, business, tourism, education, health, cultural, creative, voluntary and community sectors.

Originally intended to operate across cities, the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport is interested to see if the Cultural Compact idea can work with a rural model and the successful joint submission demonstrates the effectiveness of the LSCER partnership.

Lancaster City Council, South Lakeland District Council and Barrow Borough Council are aiming to work together through the LSCER Joint Committee, which met for the first time last month, to create a new ‘economic powerhouse for the north’ around Morecambe Bay.

The partnership’s business prospectus was launched in June last year and the three councils agree that working together will build on their collective strengths in areas such as energy, advanced manufacturing, digital technologies, life sciences, health innovation, higher education, culture and the visitor economy, by encouraging public and private sector investment, building aspiration and growing local skills to create opportunities which deliver improved productivity, prosperity and inclusive growth.

The wider Morecambe Bay economic area is already the sixth best performing in the North West, and growing, with a combined Gross Value Added (GVA) of £7 billion.

The area has the third-fastest growing economy in the UK and it is the fastest growing coastal economy, with a nine per cent projected increase in population and jobs. Council leaders say the three council areas represent a “rural, world-class functioning economic area” where there are strong employment, education and family links and where 96 per cent of the resident labour force works in the area and 75 per cent of all house moves take place within the region.

Leaders of the three councils - Councillors Ann Thomson from Barrow Borough Council, Dr Erica Lewis from Lancaster City Council and Giles Archibald from South Lakeland District Council - have recently written to government to ask for their cross-boundary partnership to be considered in discussions about devolution and potential local government reorganisation.