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There are major differences in the economic and social opportunities and challenges across different parts of Cumbria.

There are important east/west differences in the county, which in part reflects the different industrial structures and differences in accessibility. There are also north/south differences, reflecting relative accessibility to the major cities of the north and north west.

For example, Cumbria’s southern regions have the closest economic links to north Lancashire and accessibility to Manchester, Liverpool and Manchester Airport (as well as London) whilst north Cumbria faces and links to Newcastle and Scotland.

In addition, whilst there are important urban/rural splits with all rural areas across Cumbria facing common challenges, it is important to recognise that Cumbria is the most rural county in the country by the percentage of area defined as rural.

Many places in Cumbria are steeped in history, boasting historic town centres, and are attractive tourism destinations in their own right.

However, the county also has several places with long-standing and challenging concentrations of worklessness, poor health and relatively low skills base. In some cases, these areas of deprivation sit close to areas of considerable economic success and recent economic growth.

Cumbria is typified by many small to medium size settlements, each with their own identity, strengths and issues. The nine settlements with more than 10,000 residents contain about half of Cumbria’s population but even the largest (Carlisle) only has around 15 per cent of the total, although it serves a large hinterland.

Housing, as an issue, varies widely across the county with affordability ratios running from as low as 3 (Copeland which has a very unusual combination of high median earnings and low house prices) and 4 (Barrow) to 8 (Eden) and 9 (South Lakeland). The Government considers that a ratio of 4 is deemed affordable.

In the context of the wider concerns about attracting more people to live in Cumbria, another crucial dimension of place is the quality and range of services and facilities available for residents.

Given Cumbria’s geography, this varies across the county in terms of:

  • Access to good quality health care
  • Access to good schools and colleges
  • Access to cultural facilities

A Places Strategy Group was set up by Cumbria LEP to address the range of issues and opportunities ahead. It has started to focus on the five key themes of the Local Industrial Strategy. They are:

  • Work in selected cold spots of worklessness and social deprivation in Cumbria
  • Support local place shaping programmes… aimed at attracting younger people and families
  • Support a larger number and wider range of housing in Cumbria to attract people to the county
  • Encourage bespoke local area economic diversification strategies
  • Ensure good quality basic services of education, health, social care and child care

The Places Group will also be involved in the commissioning of a piece of work to support the development of the Cumbrian Housing Strategy.

It will also offer guidance and oversight for a marketing campaign aimed at promoting Cumbria – within and beyond its boundaries – as a great place to live, work and invest as well as visit.


Photo of river in Allerdale

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Wide photo of Carlisle Castle and outer moat

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Wide angle photograph of low tide at Copeland

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South Lakeland

Photo of several boats ashore a large lake at South Lakeland

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