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NW Evening Mail, Wednesday, 19 January 2011

A MULTI-MILLION pound bid to create 250 jobs and a cutting-edge energy hub in Barrow has been lodged with the government.

Barrow Regeneration says its application for cash from the Con-Dem coalition’s new Regional Growth Fund could be its last big favour to the town before it disbands.

A successful bid would pay for a “Greenport Barrow” project, with the first office buildings going up in Waterfront Business Park on Barrow Island.

They would provide three buildings in a new energy centre for a clutch of companies which are interested in moving in .

Barrow Regeneration director, Bob Pointing, said the money would also contribute to the creation of new access roads from Salthouse Road for Barrow’s Marina Village project and could trigger up to £100m of private sector investment, including house-building schemes.

Barrow Regeneration, formerly called West Lakes Renaissance, is expected to close in March because of government spending cuts.

Mr Pointing is hoping its bid for support for the Greenport Barrow project will be a winner because it involves jobs being created by the private sector in a town with a historically high dependence on public sector employment.

The agency has been talking to energy firms for weeks about the proposals.

Bids for the first-ever round of the Regional Growth Fund must be submitted to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills by this Friday. The bid for up to £7m is supported by Barrow Borough Council – which was today expected to officially endorse it – Cumbria County Council, Furness Enterprise and by the five, as yet unnamed, energy companies, including international firms.

Millions of pounds in grants have already been spent creating roads and raised plots for the Waterfront Business Park but further funds to continue development and put up the first buildings were stopped by government spending cuts and by the decision to shut down the North West Regional Development Agency, which also funds Barrow Regeneration.

Mr Pointing said: “Basically, Greenport Barrow is to build offices and premises on the business park for companies that are involved in energy, particularly offshore energy. Our problem is, although we have got the land and it is laid out, because property values in Barrow are low there is still a gap between the cost of development and the value.

“We are bidding for the money to build an energy centre with offices and training accommodation for companies involved in offshore wind and green energy in general.

“At least five energy companies are involved in this. They are companies that want premises on the Waterfront Business Park but they don’t want to own them.”

“We hope when we get the first three buildings up the market will develop the rest. We are working with Barrow Borough Council and private sector partners.”

He added: “Energy companies need new premises because they are expanding and it is an expanding market.”

He said it was expected there could be 250 new jobs initially “but that would lead to other jobs being created once the companies are here.”

The names of the energy firms are expected to be disclosed soon.

First published at 13:10, Wednesday, 19 January 2011

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