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Carlisle Mp John Stevenson – Who Is The Borderlands Growth Deal Champion, Acting As A Special Link Between The Project And

Major players gather for first conference on The Borderlands initiative

Published on: Monday 18th June 2018

The future of the Borderlands will fall into focus today as top-level talks take place to forge a bright future.

More than 300 business representatives, public sector organisations and individuals are expected to attend the first Borderlands Conference.

Many of those who will be at the event represent major players from across Cumbria and southern Scotland.

Together, they will help influence a blueprint that supporters hope will make the region a financial powerhouse, luring Government backing as well as massive private sector investment.

Talks come at a crucial point for the Borderlands Partnership, made up of Carlisle City Council, Cumbria County Council, Dumfries and Galloway Council, Northumberland County Council and Scottish Borders Council.

A team from both sides of the border is building a case to present to both the UK and Scottish governments later this year.

They want to hear from delegates at the Easterbrook Hall in Dumfries about their aspirations and ambitions for the deal.

One of the major figures in brokering that is Carlisle MP John Stevenson – who is the Borderlands Growth Deal Champion, acting as a special link between the project and the Government, and also the UK government's broadband champion.

The keynote speech today will be delivered by Brendan Dick, managing director of BT regions and director of BT Scotland.

He said: "The Borderlands conference is a unique opportunity for all sectors of the economy to make a step change in how a focused and collaborative approach to shaping the future will drive success.

"It’s success that all of us strive for and it is achievable."

The other speakers will be Scottish Secretary - and MP for Dumfriesshire - David Mundell and Keith Brown, Scotland's cabinet secretary for economy, jobs and fair work.

Themes to be explored as part of breakout sessions on the day will include digital, energy,transport and promoting "Destination Borderlands".

A Borderlands Partnership spokesperson said: “It’s important that the Borderlands Inclusive Growth Deal has support and input from the world of business.

"We really want to know what our employers and all sections of society across this vast area believe can fast-forward the economy."

Hopes are high across Cumbria that the entire county can benefit from the investment that comes.

And backers believe that when commercial flights start taking off from Carlisle Lake District Airport that that will be another major factor backing the area's growth.

Westmorland and Lonsdale MP Tim Farron is clear that the initiative's impact needs to be far-reaching.

"For it to be a success it needs to work for all of Cumbria – not just the north of the county,” he warned.

Mr Farron said the focus needed to be on improving broadband and transport links if it was to “deliver something tangible”.

Poor broadband is holding businesses back, he argued, while road and rail improvements were needed to help Cumbria cope with the likely increase of people visiting the area on the back on World Heritage Site status inscription for the Lake District National Park.

Supporters of The Borderlands have been at pains to stress that it is not about cutting the region off from other initiatives such as the Energy Coast vision for west Cumbria, which is set to benefit from huge investment in a series of nuclear developments.

“It is important that we don’t end up working in silos,” said Carlisle City Council leader Colin Glover.

“For example, the Energy Coast clearly has a contribution to The Borderlands, as does The Borderlands to the Energy Coast. Where things overlap, where they interact, we need to build those links to make sure they work together and don’t duplicate.”

Dumfries and Galloway Council leader Elaine Murray will be among the delegates at today's event.

She said: "The Borderlands Inclusive Growth Deal is the key to the future of economic development for the Borderlands area and we are delighted to be holding the inaugural conference in our region.

“By coming together under one umbrella, each of the Borderlands’ five regions have recognised that we have common issues and challenges, but also common aspirations, and we can better achieve these aspirations by working together and pooling resources.

"There is strength in numbers and together we can lobby both the Scottish and Westminster Governments to recognise our shared ambition.”

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