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Friday, 01 August 2014

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Renaissance costing £136 for every household in Carlisle

The bill for Carlisle Renaissance has topped £6.6 million – the equivalent of £136 for every household in Carlisle district.

Michael Boaden photo
Michael Boaden

The initiative was launched in response to the 2005 floods but it has come under increasing criticism for the slow rate of progress.

A scheme to redevelop Rickergate was shelved while other projects, such as a revamp for Castle Street and the ‘historic quarter’, have stalled.

Figures provided for The Cumberland News show £6.66m of public money has been spent on Renaissance so far. Of that, £3.11m went on salaries and ‘Renaissance priority projects’.

The rest was spent on Renaissance schemes managed by Carlisle City Council.

Most of the cash, £4.31m, came from the Northwest Regional Development Agency, but the city council has contributed more than £2m.

Councillor Michael Boaden, leader of the council’s Labour opposition and the party’s Parliamentary candidate for Carlisle, has long been a critic of Renaissance. He was aghast at the latest figures.

Mr Boaden said: “This is an extraordinary sum of money.

“The people of Carlisle have a right to ask – ‘What have we got to show for it?’

“The answer is a lot of reports and consultants’ documents and precious little on the ground.

“Public money is being wasted on a grand scale.”

Around £900,000 of the £6.66m was used to buy up property in Rickergate.

Simon Osman, of Save Our Streets, the group formed to fight the Rickergate redevelopment, branded the spending a “scandalous waste”.

He added: “That money could have been spent on other priorities such as south Botchergate, which is crying out for something to be done.”

Edna Croft, chairwoman of the Save Our Lonsdale campaign, believes the cash would have been better spent acquiring the former Lonsdale Cinema in Warwick Road for use as a theatre/arts centre.

She said: “A fraction of the money spent on Renaissance would have bought the Lonsdale for Carlisle.

“We are setting up a trust to raise money to restore it. We just need someone to buy the building. It was valued at around £500,000.”

Renaissance was launched in August 2005 by the then Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott.

It was initially a partnership between the city and county councils but in 2008 control passed to an independent board made up of public and private-sector representatives.

The board’s chairman, Bryan Gray, defended the initiative at a press conference held earlier this month on the fifth anniversary of the floods.

He is equally upbeat in the newly-published Renaissance 2009 annual report.

His foreword says: “Over the last 12 months we have made real progress in bringing forward the delivery of our ambitious agenda for Carlisle.

“The fruits of this will be even more visible in 2010 when projects will progress to the stage of work on the ground.”

Renaissance’s priorities are to establish the University of Cumbria in Viaduct Estate, build on the tourism potential of the city’s heritage, and creating new sites for business along the M6 corridor.

Renaissance has also tabled a bid for Carlisle to become ‘UK City of Culture’ in 2013.

Have your say

We're just going round in circles now. People like Boaden should be making sure that this lot are called in and questions start getting answered.

5 years, a lot of money and a lot of abandoned plans.

Posted by Brian on 12 February 2010 at 16:06

I am looking forward to retiring to Carlisle to enjoy a fabulous outdoor way of life but can't believe that the Renaissance has cost so much money and nothing to show for it. How do these people get away with it ?

Posted by Anne Pitts on 3 February 2010 at 11:17

View all 16 comments on this article

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