Community feedback helps to refine proposals for innovative centre to connect people with nature

COMMUNITY drop-in sessions are set to be held to share evolving plans for a new community space focused on connecting people with nature and the outdoors.

Earnse Bay, on Walney Island, is set to become home to a new community space and beach school thanks to funding from the Brilliant Barrow Town Deal and Natural England via the National Lottery Heritage Fund and DEFRA capital funds.

The new development will aim to provide people of all ages with the opportunity to access the outdoors in a range of ways to lever long term benefits for their health and wellbeing as well as for sustainability and the environment.

After reviewing the original plans and feedback from residents, people are now being invited to find out more about the refined proposals for the location at drop-in sessions as well as being able to help shape a programme of taster activities and events ahead of and during the build.

The initial drop-in sessions will be held on:

  • Thursday 18th July – 3:30 – 6:30pm, North Scale Community Centre, Walney
  • Friday 19th July – 11am -2pm, The Forum, Barrow

Further sessions are planned for later in the Summer to provide a detailed update on the scheme following community input.

A survey will be available in both digital and paper format for anyone not able to attend on the day.

Councillor Jonathan Brook, the Leader of Westmorland and Furness Council and Deputy Chair of the Brilliant Barrow Town Deal Board, said: “Earnse Bay is a wonderful location right on our doorstep. It has great views, wide open spaces and an abundance of wildlife.

“The proposals for this site will bring people together to experience nature and the outdoors, which we know has a positive impact on physical and mental wellbeing.

“This truly is a scheme designed and developed in partnership with local people. We want people to attend the drop-in sessions, to find out more about the proposals and how they have evolved and most importantly to share their views.”

The site, which extends to 3.37 hectares and is bound by West Shore to the west, West Shore Park to the north and east and Cows Tarn Lane to the south, is owned by Westmorland and Furness Council.

It currently consists of grassland and scrub, with a redundant changing room building, and some bituminous hardstanding that is no longer in use.

The latest designs for the site – based upon extensive engagement with the local community and school children – will see the creation of a space focused on outdoor activities, free to access trails and an opportunity to camp overnight in a purpose built and sensitively-sited area. Feedback from the community is being sought to enable the project team to refine the latest designs before moving into the construction stages of the project.

A building constructed on the site will be used to provide facilities and a community space while a second space is proposed for a beach school, and a volunteer and operational hub for the Natural England team based at North Walney National Nature Reserve.

Brilliant Barrow secured a Government Town Deal worth £25 million in 2022 from the Government’s Towns Fund – part of the Levelling Up agenda – for eight projects designed to transform the town for the future.

The Brilliant Barrow Town Deal Board is now working with Westmorland and Furness Council – as well as partner organisations including Furness College, University of Cumbria and Natural England – to deliver the projects before 2026.

The Earnse Bay centre forms part of the Brilliant Barrow Community Hubs project.

The project includes three further hubs; Ormsgill, Bram Longstaffe, on Barrow Island, The Forum in Barrow’s town centre.

Each will aim to bring people together, ensuring they can easily access the services and support they need at all stages of their lives.

Steve Cole, Chair of the Brilliant Barrow Board, said: “Nature and the outdoors offer untold benefits for people of all ages.

“We are excited to see the plans for the Earnse Bay centre develop further and, crucially, for taster activities to begin on site in the coming months.”

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