Problems, dreams and solutions will be on people’s minds at a series of public events designed to develop a vision for the future of a south Cumbrian town

Kendal Futures, a group which represents the town’s interests, is working with architects JTP and Farrell Huxley to run a series of Kendal vision community participation events, the first of which took place this evening.

They are part of a community participation weekend, designed to hear the views of people in the town on how it can be improved.

These will then be put into a Vison for Kendal document, which can be used to guide its future direction.

Around 60 people attended the event at the town's Shakespeare Centre, which was billed as a local business drop-in.

Those present were initially asked to list problems which they believed existed in Kendal.

Among the issues raised were the lack of cycle connectivity, expensive housing, lack of parking and nightlife.

Mark Cropper, chairman of James Cropper PLC - which employs over 350 people locally - said the ageing population was a major issue.

“This is the biggest problem,” he said.

“It causes lots of other problems. If you haven’t got the working age population then people need to commute.”

This had knock on effects for traffic and the environment, he said

Among the other myriad issues raised were the lack of use of the River Kent and its environs as a platform for tourism and trade and the lack of a science and technology park.

Peter Hensman, chairman of Lake District Estates, said: “We haven’t created any new high quality jobs. We need to put them somewhere.”

The meeting was then asked to imagine dream scenarios for how Kendal could be developed in the next 10 to 15 years.

Suggestions included having more arts and craft workshops, a vibrant, greener centre, more cafes and more use of Kendal Castle as a focal point.

Many people said they wished more was made of linking walking and cycling routes together, particularly incorporating the river.

Some even mooted the idea of an open air theatre at the town’s Gooseholme park and to rename Oxenholme, and its train station, as Kendal to help put the town on the map via the West Coast mainline.

People were finally asked to suggest solutions to some of the issues raised.

These included the creation of high quality office space in the town centre with hot desking and a complete redevelopment of the Westmorland Shopping Centre.

Nick Taylor, who worked with JTP on a similar project to regenerate Scarborough, assured the meeting that the process was worthwhile.

“Even where there are naysayers and doubts or people at either end of the scale you will be surprised how they can come together and what can come from it,” he said.

The remaining community participation workshop and exhibition events are planned for today between 1.45pm and 5.30pm and tomorrow from 11am to 4pm.

Both will take place at the Shakespeare Centre, on Highgate.

There will then be a report back presentation on October 8 between 6.45pm and 8.30pm.

A document outlining the vision for Kendal will be published soon afterwards.