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International Centre for the Uplands - Cumbria

02/02/2004 09:00:09

The long term health and economic success of parts of Cumbria is set to be addressed following £736,000 of funding for an International Centre for the Uplands - Cumbria.

The Centre combines funding from three agencies: Cumbria County Council, Rural Regeneration Cumbria - supported by the North West Development Agency - and the Lake District National Park Authority (through the Sustainable Development Fund) and will be led by Lancaster University. Partners in the Centre include the University of Central Lancashire, Voluntary Action Cumbria, and the Banff Centre for Mountain Culture. It will bring together research and practice in areas as diverse as the environment, upland economies, farming, outdoor activities, skills development, heritage, culture and tourism.

It is widely recognised that uplands throughout the developed world face major challenges such as free market pressures, rising house prices and global warming.

The Centre is a pioneering venture to help local agencies choose the best policies for the long-term well-being of the uplands. The topics for research will be decided in 2004 after county-wide consultation, but possible projects might be to find new ways of raising farm profitability, detecting upland erosion or providing affordable housing.

A scheme of travelling fellowships is envisaged to let enterprising Cumbrians travel to examine new ideas in action in the UK or overseas, and bring overseas experts to Cumbria.

The Centre will work closely with key individuals, agencies, and communities in the county, to develop a work programme of research and practical projects on the environment, economy and culture of the uplands, using local, national and international expertise. The research will test out new ideas to boost the competitiveness of the local economy and the vibrancy of Cumbrian communities, as an exemplar to other upland areas across the world.

Professor Paul Wellings, Vice-Chancellor of Lancaster University said:”This is a splendid opportunity for the universities to use their acknowledged research expertise in the environment, ICT, management and social sciences to help the sustainable regeneration of the county. We trust that this will be the first of many such partnerships.”

Michael Bentley, Chairman of the Lake District National Park Authority said:

“The uplands of Cumbria, not just the Lake District National Park, represent some of our country’s finest landscapes. They rely on healthy communities and a vibrant economy. We will only sustain what is special in Cumbria’s uplands if we tap into local and international experience. This Centre does that and I welcome it wholeheartedly.”

Chris Torkington, the Chief Executive of Rural Regeneration Cumbria believes

that the work of the International Centre for the Uplands - Cumbria will be

directed at some of the biggest challenges facing Cumbria.

“Cumbria’s mountain landscape is one of the most recognised and most valuable from a tourism point of view, but our uplands are also an essential part of our agricultural economy where people live and work, and their interests - aswell as that of the landscape itself must be safeguarded. The ICUC has proposed a realistic and forward looking approach to reconciling the different demands being made on our natural heritage. We are particularly excited that the Centre will be playing a leading international role in developing solutions to upland challenges”

Rex Toft, Leader of the Cumbria County Council said:

“The establishment of the International Centre for Sustainable Uplands in Cumbria will be a major step forward in the regeneration of the county’s rural economy and a spur to securing the future of upland areas in the rest of Britain, in Europe and even further abroad, and are delighted to be working with our colleagues to turn the idea into reality. It will inform long term action by exploring innovative ways of tackling the problems faced by the peoples of rural uplands over much of the world, such as how to develop sustainable alternatives to declining industries. Within Cumbria it help build on initiatives such as the Rural Action Zone and Rural regeneration Cumbria, the country’s first major rural regeneration company.”

A director for the Centre will be appointed in early 2004 and the core staff will be based at Hackthorpe Hall, near Penrith.