“A positive step forward for Penrith”
FACING the public on the opening morning of the launch of the Penrith masterplan was John Owen, the Eden Council executive member responsible for economic development.
Mr Owen (Con, Shap) was joined at the council’s pop-up shop in the town’s Middlegate by chief executive Rose Rouse to answer questions about the masterplan.
Council leader Kevin Beaty (Con, Skelton) attended the evening sessions, having been on the family farm in the morning.
The doors opened on Monday at 10am but people arrived from 9am. Objectors from the Friends of the Beacon group and Keep Penrith Special, chanted “no, no, no” and hoisted placards which read: “Disaster plan”.
Mr Owen said he had been “very pleased” with the interest. Asked whether it was “political dynamite” to launch such a hugely controversial project just seven months before the entire council stands for election, he said: “The nettle has to be grasped at some time and you can’t stand still for ever. You have to look to the future. Penrith has wonderful potential.
“There are different opinions about the masterplan, not everyone is against this. Some are very concerned about the Beacon, and I understand that. A lot of people don’t like change and some people do. But this is an opportunity, a masterplan and a vision for the town. It is not going to happen immediately and I won’t be here to see it, but I think it’s a positive step forward for Penrith.”
Mr Owen said he hoped that when people read and digested the masterplan they might see another side to the argument.
Asked whether there are firms knocking on the council’s door to move to Penrith to help provide some of the 7,000 jobs required over the 32-year lifespan of the masterplan, Mr Owen said there were, but he could not openly identify them.
He said: “The problem is we don’t have any land for them at the moment. At present, we have people having to be bussed into Penrith from Carlisle to fill some of the jobs here.
“The masterplan sets aside 73 hectares of land toward Junction 41 which will be highly attractive to businesses who don’t have the space at the moment to even consider Penrith. Our place on the road network makes us a very attractive town to companies, and if we can get the housing right, I am very, very confident we can get the businesses here.
“I can’t say they are (businesses providing) hundreds or thousands (of jobs) but obviously if we can attract businesses here there is going to be a massive improvement in the number of jobs available.”
He said the area’s young people received an excellent standard of education in Penrith but then left and rarely came back.
“You look at Penrith town centre and the shops that are closing on the high street, we have to try and create a better environment and life for people. I am fully behind it and believe this could make a very big difference,” he added.