Is Cumbria being short-changed by the Borderlands growth deal?

Cumbria should get a bigger share of the funding provided by the Borderlands Growth Deal, the county’s Chamber of Commerce says.

The deal, formally launched at the beginning of July, will release £394.5m of public funding to boost infrastructure, skills and tourism in the area straddling the Anglo-Scottish border.

Projects identified include £15m for improvements at Carlisle railway station and up to £5m for a feasibility study to extend the Borders Railway from Edinburgh to Carlisle.

But Rob Johnston, Chief Executive of Cumbria Chamber Commerce, said: “We welcome the deal in principle but we’d have liked to see Cumbria get a bigger slice of the cake.

“Half the population of the Borderlands region live in Cumbria yet we’re not getting anywhere near half the money. The Carlisle Station Gateway is the only major infrastructure project in the county to receive funding.

“We’re pleased though that the ‘heads of terms’ include plans to roll out full-fibre broadband and improve mobile phone coverage – something we’ve been arguing for with our ‘no more not spots’ campaign’.”

The Borderlands is made up of Cumbria, Dumfries and Galloway, Northumberland and the Scottish Borders, a region of almost 9,000sq miles that is home to 1m people.

Rob added: “The Borderlands concept recognises that communities either side of the border face similar challenges.

“We’re all grappling with an ageing population, lack of skills in the workforce and inadequate transport links, for example.

“The Growth Deal aims to address these.

“Growth Deals are the Government’s preferred method for devolving spending to the regions. Bigger cities such as Manchester and Leeds have done well out of them.

“Cumbria was supposed to get a Growth Deal in 2016 but it didn’t happen and we’ve missed out as a result.

We hope the projects announced this week will be just the start and, now the door is open, more funding will flow.

“The Borderlands Growth Deal should fill the gap. We hope the projects announced this week will be just the start and, now the door is open, more funding will flow.

“Some of the work done by the local authorities behind Borderlands identified other projects, such as improvements to the A595 between Carlisle and Sellafield and dualling the A69 between Carlisle and Hexham, which could be progressed.

“But it has to be said that there’s little in the Borderlands Growth Deal for the south of the county, which is why the Chamber is also supportive of proposals for a Morecambe Bay Growth Deal for Barrow, South Lakeland and Lancaster.”

Listen to the Chamber’s Business Engagement Manager, Julian Whittle, talking about the Borderlands Growth Deal on BBC Radio Cumbria:

© Cumbria Chamber of Commerce