A force for change

The £125m Eden North project is looking to drive optimism back into Morecambe and the rest of Lancashire as it works to be a major force in tackling deprivation.

David Harland, chief executive of Eden Project, spelled out the opportunities the major investment programme will deliver at the first of Lancashire Business Week’s Breakfast Blasts today.

The theme of the online event was opportunities and challenges and it examined some of the ‘big ticket’ projects that will have an impact on the county. CG Professional was the headline sponsor of the event, hosted by Lancashire Business View. A series of Breakfasts Blasts are planned every morning this week looking at a range of issues of importance to the county’s business community.

David Harland revealed how the Morecambe project - which is looking to create a national and international visitor attraction in the town, re-imagine the British seaside and regenerate the community - is moving forward.

Eden has applied for £70m of government funding, its team is working on the next stage of designs and it is looking to submit a planning application in the spring.

David said that Morecambe, despite its natural assets such as the Bay and proximity to the Lake District, has experienced levels of deprivation “that we should be ashamed of”.

He told the audience of more than 60 at the Lancashire Business View-hosted online event: “A big part of this project is about driving optimism back into the town and the region and to drive out that deprivation.”

That included providing opportunities for people to build careers in the area and to make sure there is hope for young people through education.

David added: “We want to buy at least 80 per cent of our goods and services in Lancashire, that is how you really drive change.”

Daniel Cochlin, head of external affairs at The Northern Powerhouse Partnership, told the event that one of the main challenges for Lancashire and the wider region was communicating how the ‘levelling up’ agenda can change people’s lives.

He said projects like Net Zero North, which is looking decarbonise the region’s economy provided large-scale opportunities to create industries “that we can export all round the world”.

Daniel also spoke of the positive influence that devolution and an elected mayor system had delivered in other parts of the North.

He added: “Securing some form of devolution in Lancashire as a whole or for parts of Lancashire would be a great step forward.”

He told the gathering that every part of the North could play a part in the powerhouse process, which was a long-term project.

And he added: “It is important businesses get behind the principle we are trying to put forward that every part of the North is worth investing in.”

Ben Blackman, operations consultant at Lancashire 2025, the county’s UK city of culture bid, said the whole of the county needed to come together as one to sell itself on a national and international stage.

He cited the way Yorkshire has presented itself as one complete entity and added: “We need to unite as Lancashire. Lancashire 2025 presents that opportunity to say this is us, this is all of us, we all live and work in this amazing county.”

Gill Hall, owner of Butlers Farmhouse Cheeses, said the pandemic had been a catalyst to accelerate change in the business.

Butlers had joined forces with other quality food producers in the county to offer a delivery service to homes across the North West.

She said: “It fast-tracked a strategy we were already on to go directly to consumers. We’d already done the thinking and we were able to do it much quicker.”

Praising her workforce for the way they have risen to the challenges of the pandemic, Gill added: “We have grown, we have re-found our entrepreneurial spirit.”

Julien Parven, director of partner business and marketing at Daisy Communications, also shared his business’ journey during the pandemic.

He said: “Over the last seven to eight months we have seen a ground-breaking change in terms of our customers’ consumption of tech and telecoms.”

Julien said that the pandemic had been a “catalyst” which had seen businesses look to meet the challenges of remote and flexible working through innovation.

It had completely changed the landscape for some of them while others had begun a digital transformation journey, with increased use of the cloud.

Jamie Grimshaw, investment executive at FW Capital, said the specialist funding provider had also had to adapt.

He said that businesses across the county had invested in helping their staff work from home efficiently, and havd also worked to support them with issues such as mental health.

Looking at the funding landscape, Jamie said: “There is a lot of money out there, particularly from lenders and other non-traditional funders.”

He urged companies to take advice and look at their businesses critically as they examined the options available to them.

To watch this event in full, click here.

Lancashire Business Week is also backed by patrons AMRC North West, Beever and Struthers, Burnley.co.uk, Burnley College, Community Foundation for Lancashire, FW Capital, IN4.0 Group, Lancashire 2025 and PDS Engineering. Utiligroup is a supporter. The media partners are Downtown in Business, Lancaster and District Chamber of Commerce and lovelocalnetworking.

For full details and line-up, visit: https://bit.ly/LBW2020