Wed, May 6, 2009
By John Grainger, Manging Director, Invest in Cumbria
West Cumbria, located on the North West coast of England, is embracing its major nuclear assets and internationally competitive expertise and skills in a range of energy related activities, ensuring it remains one of the UK’s most, if not the most important location for energy production. In doing so it is set to play a lead role in maintaining a sustainable nation and supporting the UK’s contribution to European energy policy, transforming its own economy in the process. Invest in Cumbria – the county’s inward investment organisation – is putting real focus on the renewable energy nucleus being created to extend the wealth of energy related organisations based in the area.
For decades West Cumbria has been at the forefront of innovation and expertise in the nuclear industry. As the UK’s most important location for nuclear and related advanced engineering, the region hosts around a third of the nation’s civil nuclear industry and attracts both well established and new found companies with energy knowledge and skills from around the world. The current changes in nuclear are offering enormous immediate and long-term opportunities for the locality in the decommissioning, waste and new build sectors; recently, Prime Minister Gordon Brown, endorsed West Cumbria’s plan to become Britain’s Energy Coast™.
This strategy to build on the area’s nuclear intelligence and branch out into new and existing forms of low-carbon energy production promises substantial economic growth and the potential for the county to lead the way in the UK’s drive to tackle climate change and secure energy security. By 2027 West Cumbria aims to be globally recognised as a leading nuclear, energy, environment and related technology business cluster. The formation of a new organisation, West Cumbria Vision, has been tasked to drive through and achieve this ambition. They will work to a Masterplan of 29 regeneration projects to deliver a bold vision for the future, representing £2 billion worth of public and private sector investment and the creation of 16,000 jobs. Projects range from pioneering centres for nuclear skills and enterprise support for businesses to transport improvements and the further development of West Cumbria as a major tourism destination.
In 1956 West Cumbria’s existing nuclear power station, Calder Hall, now known as Sellafield, became the UK’s first and has played a lead role in the nation’s nuclear activity for over half a century. The site, now managed by Nuclear Management Partners (NMP) on behalf of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, still accounts for more that 50 per cent of the UK’s civil nuclear workforce. Activity there is now centred on decommissioning, giving way for strong local support for the region to capitalise on the Government’s commitment to new build and a new nuclear power station in the area could be producing electricity by 2025.
The UK Energy Minister, Mike O’Brien, stated West Cumbria’s existing nuclear power station Sellafield to be home to the UK’s “nuclear skills…expertise and many of our key facilities.” Foresight, planning and historic expertise has positioned Sellafield as a serious contender for one or even two of the UK’s new nuclear power stations, meaning West Cumbria has three potential sites for new stations. On a recent visit to the region Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, emphasised the strength of new-build opportunities available to the area, saying “Nuclear is crucial to our low carbon future; it is crucial to our energy security. During construction, each new station would bring as many as 9,000 jobs, create up to 1,000 skilled long-term jobs when operational and be worth about £2 billion to the surrounding region and wider economy. With such deep-rooted ties to the nuclear industry Sellafield is in a strong position to benefit.”
Skills, research and development in West Cumbria’s nuclear sector is amongst the highest nationally and has been strengthened recently by the opening of Energus, the £20 million flagship for the National Skills Academy for Nuclear and home to a new University of Cumbria’s Britain’s Energy Coast™ campus. Under one roof, training, education, business support and conference facilities are provided and will be amongst the best in the world. This is set to attract global business to West Cumbria, along with the National Nuclear Laboratory and The Dalton Cumbria Facility. As well as its nuclear capability Cumbria’s coast is also establishing firm foundations as a centre for renewable energy. The county already boasts large-scale off-shore windfarms, oil and gas reserves with huge potential to develop tidal and wave energy, biomass and microgeneration.
West Cumbria’s determination and drive to become the UK’s centre of energy is now the catalyst for huge regeneration in the area, extending the ‘energy’ in Britain’s Energy Coast into all aspects of life. This is why considerable investment and effort from organisations like Invest in Cumbria, is being made to raise the area’s profile as a superb place to live, work and visit. The district is surrounding by some of the most outstanding scenery and coastline in the UK, and is on the edge of the country’s largest national park and tourism hotspot, the Lake District. Major renovation in recent years including huge improvements to the West Cumbria towns of Whitehaven, Workington and Maryport continues and a further £50 million is earmarked for improvements to cultural, sporting and leisure facilities.
Currently around £80 million is being channelled in to providing sites for quality affordable homes for young people and first time buyers, student accommodation and new executive homes, while improvements to schools and the establishment of new academies will total more than £200 million. The NHS Trust in Cumbria responsible for providing acute hospital care in the county has also announced a £100 million rebuild of the West Cumberland Hospital, providing modern facilities and health care for West Cumbria’s residents. A raft of improvements to transport are also earmarked for the region, boosted by the recent announcement that passenger and commercial flights will be available at the county’s Carlisle Airport, with a £19 million investment by Stobart Air Limited.
West Cumbria’s huge presence in the nuclear industry and move to become Britain’s Energy Coast™ puts the area in a strong position not only to weather the current economic climate but also help the area become one of the fastest growing economies in the UK.
For more information about Britain’s Energy Coast™ visit www.britainsenergycoast.com.
Want to know how to invest and grow in West Cumbria, contact:
Invest in Cumbria, Rural Enterprise Centre, Redhills, Penrith, Cumbria, CA11 0DT