A plan to look at ways to drive post-COVID prosperity and economic resilience around the Morecambe Bay area has been agreed.
The Bay Prosperity and Resilience Strategy has been jointly developed by an economic partnership between Barrow Borough Council, Lancaster City Council and South Lakeland District Council.
The three councils have written to Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak to request a commitment from Government to back the strategy, so the Bay area can deliver a ‘huge impact’ on the performance of the Northern Powerhouse as the region’s economies recover from the impacts of the pandemic.
The partnership is seeking Government funding over the next two years to jointly develop plans and projects to further unlock the Bay area’s economic potential.
These plans would then provide the evidence for a significant bid to government at a later date, which, if successful, could provide millions of pounds of investment in crucial schemes that deliver economic growth.
The strategy document describes how the councils’ economic collaboration is focused on eight themes:
- Renewables and clean growth
- Building on the area’s arts and cultural offer
- Delivering new roles for ports at Barrow and Heysham
- Retaining and attracting the best talent and diversity
- Supporting high efficiency ‘food-agri’ innovation
- Enhancing digital connectivity
- Growing healthy communities
- Building resilient town centres
The document gives a breakdown of the opportunities under each theme.
It details how the Bay area is perfectly placed to capitalise on its existing wind, solar, hydrogen, nuclear and marine technologies to become a ‘clean energy trailblazer’, and how it can harness natural assets like the Lake District World Heritage site to complement a world-leading arts and cultural destination, further fuelled by the opportunities that Eden Project North in Morecambe could deliver.
The strategy outlines proposals to use the two main Bay area ports as key locations for potential economic growth, and how initiatives could further ensure the area is a lifestyle location of choice for the most talented people.
Innovative activity in the ‘food-agri’ sector would look to combine the agricultural economy with the established engineering and tech sector and specialised higher and further education work – including Lancaster University’s international expertise in plant science – to put the Bay area at the forefront of the move to high-efficiency agriculture.
The strategy looks at creating a connected Bay area through the roll-out of a fast fibre network and 5G and improving the quality of local, easily accessible health services, while building an economy that supports health and wellbeing through good quality housing and jobs.
The document says all eight themes represent areas in which the three councils have shared agendas – linking in to priorities on building economic wealth in communities, taking action on climate change and tackling poverty and health inequalities. By working together they believe they can deliver “bigger, better and more effective solutions.’’
It continues: “Data shows the Bay area is an integrated economic area, and has been for many years with strong historical, community and supply chain linkages binding us together. Each area provides a different but complementary contribution to our economic offer.
“Together we provide a base for world-class sectors with exceptionally high levels of innovation, and a unique lifestyle offering with one of the UK’s most rapidly developing cultural offers. We are certain we can achieve more by working together on economic prosperity than by acting individually.
“The initiatives we will work on jointly will drive up prosperity and build resilience in these challenging times. It is essential that we secure immediate interest and investment from UK Central Government in our growth agenda.
“A growing and prosperous Bay area economy can make a huge impact on the performance of the Northern Powerhouse.’’
The three councils have been working together on economic initiatives since 2017 and formed a joint committee earlier this year to develop the strategy.
The economic partnership has already achieved notable success when a joint submission to the Arts Council was accepted as one of only two “rural” bids in the UK to develop a pioneering ‘Cultural Compact’ around Morecambe Bay, harnessing cultural and creative opportunities to boost the local economy.
Barrow Borough Council, Lancaster City Council and South Lakeland District Council have are also looking to build on the successful economic partnership by agreeing to develop a ‘high-level’ case for a new-look unitary council for the Morecambe Bay area comprising the three districts.
In a joint statement, the leaders of the three councils, Councillor Ann Thomson, Leader of Barrow Borough Council, Councillor Dr Erica Lewis, Leader of Lancaster City Council and Councillor Giles Archibald, Leader of South Lakeland District Council, said: “This strategy re-states our intent to work together on developing solutions that will bring real lasting benefit to the Bay area.
“We are an existing functioning economic area with many shared interests and priorities and we believe that working collectively we can more effectively support the area’s economic recovery from the pandemic and drive future growth and prosperity.
“We are now asking Government to back our strategy so that we can progress this work and really develop and enhance the area’s economic potential.’’
The full Prosperity and Resilience Strategy document can be viewed here.