The desire to build a multi-million-pound Inspiring Eden Enterprise Hub near Penrith is “as strong as ever”, despite the district council’s bid for Levelling Up funding from the Government being rejected.
A planning application has been submitted on behalf of Rayner Rowen Developments Limited for an industrial business park on land near Stoneybeck roundabout, north of the town on the A6, which includes provision for Eden Council’s flagship enterprise hub project.
A bid for £7.2 million had been made to the Government’s Levelling Up Fund to help pay for the new hub, but on Wednesday the district authority found out its funding application had failed.
A spokesman for Eden Council said they were obviously disappointed and were looking forward to receiving detailed written feedback regarding the decision to reject the bid.
“This will inform any decision around applications for the next round of Levelling Up funding,” the spokesman said.
Mary Robinson, Eden Council’s deputy leader and economies and enterprise portfolio holder, said: “I’m confident that the Inspiring Eden programme, which has received strong backing from Penrith and the Border MP, Dr Neil Hudson, Cumbria County Council, the University of Cumbria and a host of local businesses, will continue to promote 21st Century rural excellence in Eden, with the enormous economic benefits that will bring to the area.
“I’d like to thank everyone who assisted and supported our submission for Levelling Up funding. The bidding process has helped the council, its partners and stakeholders energise and focus local thinking around the Inspiring Eden programme.
“Provisional planning permission and significant funding is already in place for the Inspiring Eden Enterprise Hub site.
“The land is available, plans are in place and the desire to realise the full potential of the project is as strong as ever. Local government reorganisation means that Cumbria’s district councils no longer have to compete with each other for funding from central government.
“We will be able to combine our resources as Westmorland and Furness Council and I look forward to continuing positive and constructive dialogue with our colleagues at the new authority, as we explore ways we can work together to harness the energy and focus that the Inspiring Eden Levelling Up Fund bid has generated to secure additional investment for the Eden area.”
Stephen Macaulay, president of Penrith Chamber of Trade and Commerce, felt that Eden Council’s “field of dreams” may have been a “bid too far”.
“This fund’s focus was on town centre investment, transport investment and cultural investment that aligned to and supported net zero goals,” said Mr Macaulay.
“On initial review, the EDC proposal failed to address any of these criteria and in fact many felt that the proposal ran counter to it.
“We, together with many other stakeholders, raised our concern over this point, but these concerns were never addressed.
“Without a strategic plan in place, which the town desperately needs, future funding applications will continue to go the same way.”
“It has to be recognised that it would need to be an exceptional bid for Penrith to receive money through the levelling up fund (and other funds of this nature). The levelling up fund is targeted at areas of most need and Penrith and Eden is, when measured on most metrics, an affluent community with high levels of employment and low levels of deprivation.
“This is a constant frustration as we do tend to miss out on these ‘opportunities’ and it demonstrates the unfairness of this competitive approach to government funding.
“The only way to give us any chance of success is to be prepared: carefully review each funds criteria, formulate a plan that meets the criteria and then find some added value that makes the bid stand out among, and score higher than the other competitors. This takes a concerted effort, consultation and planning with the wider community.
“We were not party to the subsequent application process and have not had sight of the final supporting information which promised to justify the decision to promote this over other projects.
“Even by putting our best foot forward, there would be little chance of success but the failure of EDC to prepare for this made the outcome sadly predictable.”