THE MP for Barrow has welcomed the Government's Levelling Up White Paper - saying it would help to 'reverse the decline that many coastal communities have faced for too long'.

The paper from Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove outlined the Government's targets for the remainder of the decade.

Among the targets specified are improved public transport services and better standards of education.

Simon Fell, MP for Barrow and Furness, described it as a 'really welcome document'.

"It sets the path for levelling up over the next decade, which will be crucial to constituencies like Barrow and Furness," he said.

"There's a welcome emphasis on community pride, allowing close-knit communities like ours to take control of their own destiny, rather than rule from Westminster, and a huge cross-government programme to increase productivity, skills, access to opportunity and economic development.

"While we have been fortunate to be the beneficiaries of a town deal and the levelling up fund, this paper is about going beyond that and ensuring that Furness can define its own future, and reverse the decline that many coastal communities have faced for too long."

However, Westmorland and Lonsdale MP Tim Farron expressed concern in Parliament today over the extent of commitment the document showed to levelling up rural areas.

“In Cumbria we have three-hour round trips for cancer treatment, a threat to our local accident and emergency department, and the fact that our villages and communities are being cleared by second homes and Airbnb.

“I would be delighted to work with the Secretary of State constructively and I would love it if he would agree to meet with me so we could talk about some answers to the housing catastrophe - not just in Cumbria, but the rest of rural Britain.”

Mr Gove responded: “I have to say I agree with almost everything that the honourable gentleman said.

“Firstly, it is important that we focus on rural poverty.

“Secondly, that there are unique issues in Cumbria. Local government reorganisation - the creation of a new local authority in Cumberland and a new one in Westmorland with Barrow - will contribute to making sure we have a proper focus on it, but we need to go further.

“He’s also right, actually, that the issues of second homes and the impact that it has on local economies is a complex one.

"We’re not in the right place yet and I do want to work with him and other colleagues to address it.”