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Borderlands a 'once-in-a-generation' opportunity for economic transformation

Published on: Tuesday 19th June 2018

A 'once-in-a-generation' blueprint to turn the border region into an economic powerhouse was outlined to more than 300 people at the first Borderlands conference.

The project wants to see schemes for improving the road and rail infrastructure, digital provision, skills and business across the region.

Businesses, public sector representatives and members of the public heard that the innovative project that draws together five different local authorities, has the backing of both the UK and Scottish governments.

Both have pledged to help fund the schemes drawn up as the Borderlands Growth Deal.

Chancellor Philip Hammond announced support for the growth deal in his budget last year and it is hoped he will announce funding in the autumn budget.

The Borderlands partnership is made up of Carlisle City Council, Cumbria County Council, Dumfries and Galloway Council and Scottish Borders Council.

The team behind the deal have until September to submit their plan of action and the conference yesterday in Dumfries was called to outline the plans and hear the views of those affected.

Dumfries and Galloway Council leader Elaine Murray said the deal could be "transformational" for the region.

Allerdale district councillor and Cumbria county councillor Tony Markley urged project leaders to concentrate on completing "one, two or four" projects and doing them well, rather than working on many.

Carlisle city council leader Colin Glover, is a key member of the Borderlands group.

He said work would now begin on drawing up a shortlist of projects that could be achieved within a relatively short period of time.

One of the schemes involves revamping Carlisle train station to become a transport hub.

"We have to get four or five projects over the line for funding," he said.

"We won't attract funding to deliver all of it in the first wave.

"But if we are credible, competent and deliver, we will attract more money for the next package."

Carlisle MP John Stevenson and has been appointed champion for the English Borderlands.

He said the first-ever Borderlands conference had been worthwhile.

"The Borderlands initiative has captures the imagination of politicians, councils and the wider public.

Jason Gooding, chief executive of Carlisle city council said the government was committed to the Borderland Growth Deal.

He told the conference: "We have no reason to believe that that it is the case that if we don't achieve the deadline for the Budget, that the opportunity for a growth bid is lost."

Scottish Economy Secretary Keith Brown told the conference that the Scottish government had already agreed city and regional growth deals worth £1.4bn and was keen to provide more to help the Borderlands area grow.

In a message to the meeting, David Mundell, Secretary of State for Scotland, said the Borderlands initiative was a "unique opportunity to provide a real shot in the arm" for the region's economy.

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