4 March 2016
Craig Hatch, Head of Asset Management, WYG, leads the strategy for growth within Britain's Energy Coast in Cumbria. He shares his thoughts on what role Cumbria can play in the Northern Powerhouse.
In the past, the geographical boundaries of the Northern Powerhouse have often been left hazy, seemingly following an axis from Liverpool to Hull, extending to Newcastle, and Sheffield, leaving aside the whole Cumbrian region.
It was therefore comforting to see Cumbrian businesses represented at the launch of Business North in Leeds on 1st February. This new group brings a much needed business and leadership focus to the Northern Powerhouse, which has largely remained a political concept so far.
It was also good see the Cumbria LEP exhibiting and taking part in the discussions at the UK Northern Powerhouse Conference in Manchester, on 25th-26th February. The event, which gathered Chief Executives from all the major cities in the North of England, influential speakers, and an international delegation from Europe’s investment hotspots, made a significant impact, reaching over 2,000 delegates and feeding news headlines.
As it is slowly emerging, it would not be wise to keep Cumbria out of an economically powerful vision of the North. With £25 billion of private investment currently being pumped into Cumbria over the next 10 to 15 years and a national lead in the energy sector established over several decades, Cumbria literally has the potential to become the engine that powers the north.
The momentum towards economic growth that currently exists in Cumbria can really help propel the North forward. Cumbria is the UK Centre of Nuclear Excellence that has the power to attract foreign investors. It has specialist skills that can be exported nationally and abroad. It has expertise that can foster innovation and support apprenticeships. It has a rich industrial rural heritage that harbours a multitude of supply chain businesses in a stunning environment.
But, in addition to the private investment fuelling this expansion, more direct investment from the Government is needed to ensure that Cumbria’s full potential is unlocked and the infrastructure aligns with the needs of a robust Northern Powerhouse. Devolution of powers must be the next step to ensure that the private and public sectors work together towards making Cumbria the engine room of the Northern Powerhouse.