The desire to build a multi-million pound Inspiring Eden Enterprise Hub near Penrith is “stronger than ever”, despite the rejection of the District Council’s bid for Government Leveling Up funding.
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 provisions for the proposed Eden Council’s flagship business center.
An offer of £7.2million had been made to the government’s Leveling Fund to help pay for the new hub, but on Wednesday the district authority discovered its request for funding had failed.
A spokesperson for Eden Council said they were clearly disappointed and looked forward to receiving detailed written comments regarding the decision to reject the bid.
“This will inform any decisions regarding applications for Leveling Up’s next funding round,” the spokesperson said.
Mary Robinson, Deputy Leader of the Eden Council and holder of the Savings and Business portfolio, said: “I am confident that the Inspiring Eden programme, which has received strong support from Penrith and 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 huge economic benefits this will bring to the region.
“I would like to thank everyone who helped and supported our submission for Leveling Up funding. The bidding process has helped the council, its partners and stakeholders to energize and focus local thinking around the Inspiring Eden program.
“Interim planning permission and significant funding is already in place for the Inspiring Eden Enterprise Hub site.
“The land is available, the plans are in place and the desire to realize the full potential of the project is stronger than ever. Local government reorganization means Cumbria’s district councils no longer have to compete for central government funding.
“We will be able to combine our resources as Westmorland and Furness Council and I look forward to continuing a positive and constructive dialogue with our colleagues in the new authority, as we explore ways to work together to harness the energy and focus that the Inspiring Eden Leveling Up Fund offering has generated additional investment for the Eden region.
Stephen Macaulay, chairman of the Penrith Chamber of Trade and Commerce, felt Eden Council’s ‘dream field’ may have been ‘bidding too far’.
“This fund focused on downtown investment, transportation investment and cultural investment that aligned with and supported net zero goals,” Macaulay said.
“Upon initial review, EDC’s proposal failed to meet any of these criteria and, in fact, many felt that the proposal went against it.
“We, along with many other stakeholders, have expressed concern about this, but these concerns have never been addressed.
“Without a strategic plan in place, which the city desperately needs, future funding requests will continue to follow the same path.”
“It must be recognized that it would take a windfall for Penrith to receive money through the leveling fund (and other funds of that nature). The leveling fund is targeted at areas that have the no longer needed and Penrith and Eden are, 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 tend to miss these ‘opportunities’ and it demonstrates the unfairness of this competitive approach to government funding.
“The only way to give us a chance of success is to be prepared: carefully consider each funding criteria, formulate a plan that meets the criteria, then find added value that makes the offer stand out and get score higher than other competitors.. This requires concerted effort, consultation and planning with the wider community.
“We did not participate in the subsequent application process and were not made aware of the final supporting information that promised to substantiate the decision to promote this project over other projects.
“Even doing our best there would be little chance of success, but EDC’s failure to prepare for this made the outcome sadly predictable.”