Barrow cannot afford to depend too much on one business - says a prominent council boss.

Sam Plum, Barrow Borough Council's chief executive said the town was unusual in having one hugely dominant employer, BAE Systems’ shipyard making up nearly 10,000 of the 32,000 jobs in the area.

“The fortunes of the residents rise and fall on the fortunes of the shipyard,” says Sam.

At present, with the shipyard investing heavily as it works on the Royal Navy’s new Astute and Dreadnought class submarines, the fortunes of the shipyard look very positive.

However, Mrs Plum says Barrow cannot afford to depend too much on one business and it must be remembered that BAE needs a strong town to attract the skilled people required to keep the yard working

“If Barrow doesn’t have a really good town centre, doesn’t have a thriving housing market, doesn’t have a good education sector they are never going to be able to attract the kind of people they need in the yard,” she says.

With this in mind the council has been working on destination marketing to try and remove some of the negative images of the town.

Last year the council secured £25m from the Government’s Towns Fund for its #BrilliantBarrow project, with Barrow’s Town Deal board chaired by Steve Cole, chief infrastructure officer at BAE Systems.

Plans include a programme of business support for residents, entrepreneurs and SMEs, as well as for a new learning quarter comprising a University of Cumbria campus and a skills hub for sixth form students.

Other projects include the development of a calendar of events to draw people to the area, housing renewal and creating new cycling and walking infrastructure.

“Having a university campus in Barrow will enable our young people to get higher education if they want it and it will bring in young people who want a university life,” says Sam.

Beyond the shipyard, she says the town is well-placed for job creation linked to renewable and sustainable energy production.

The Port of Barrow is already an important site for servicing offshore wind farms in the Irish Sea, with the Government vowing to quadruple offshore wind power capability within the next decade.

Sam says she believes the town could also become a centre of hydrogen production, using a combination of seawater and electrolysis driven by wind power.

At the same time Barrow Borough, alongside South Lakeland District and Lancaster City councils, is waiting to see if it will even exist at all by the end of 2023.

Last year the trio submitted their full business case to the Government for forming a new unitary authority around Morecambe Bay, with a second unitary in the north consisting of Copeland, Allerdale, Carlisle and Eden, with a decision expected by the end of the summer.

Sam says even if the unitary vision is rejected the councils will continue to push for a growth deal around Morecambe Bay, similar to the Borderlands project in the north of the county.

“I don’t see why we shouldn’t be arguing for an economic growth deal in the same way whatever happens with local government reorganisation,” she says.