The development of a new cultural and creative courtyard planned for a north Cumbrian park has split opinion.

Tribe CIC recently won the contract to operate the new courtyard at Bitts Park in Carlisle.

As part of the operating model at the new site, which will open this summer, all tenants will be required to reinvest back into local disadvantaged communities.

A diverse mix of potential tenants were encouraged to come forward and apply for a space at the new courtyard.

Carlisle City Council's Shadow Portfolio holder for Culture Leisure and Heritage, Cllr Jo Ellis-Williams said she was "in two minds"about the development.

"I think the concept is fantastic," she said.

"I want to be supportive of it, but there's just a bit of me that thinks it is in the wrong place.

"It's taking business out of the city centre at a time when the city centre needs people to be buying things there.

"We need to be bringing people into the city centre, not taking them away.

More recently, Tribe CIC also applied for a licence that would allow alcohol to be sold and supplied at the courtyard.

The licence would also allow the holding of regulated entertainment, including music, singing, dancing, and other live performances.

Cllr Ellis-Williams added: "That worries me, that they're thinking about having alcohol there. 

"And you've got a play park nearby."

Tribe Director, Joe Gardham, said: "Success to us - as a business and a concept - is seeing small, local, start-up enterprises testing their idea, before moving on to fill some of the empty shops in the city centre.

"We are a completely different offer from the city centre. Our business model ensures that our members are able to access our space at an affordable price point, reducing the risk to them, and encouraging innovation and collaboration.

"We invite and encourage local people to ‘have a go’ who would most likely not have the means or confidence to do so in the city centre.

"Once they’ve built a profile, network, financial reserves and business resilience at Tribe, they’ll be perfectly placed to get their own space in the city.

"High Streets across the country are suffering, which has only been intensified by covid.

"Their resurgence or reinvention is multi-faceted, with so many different stakeholders playing their part.

"Tribe is our very small contribution to this huge national issue – not by competing with what’s here currently, but by incubating the next generation of businesses so Carlisle’s commercial landlords have a quality, experienced, diverse and resilient pool of ‘high street ready’ tenants to choose from and residents will have a vibrant, exciting city in which to socialise, work and be entertained.

On fears over the potential sale of alcohol on site, Mr Gardham added:"I think alcohol consumption, like a lot of things in life, can be misconstrued as an immediate pre cursor to abuse and anti social behaviour.

"I know from living, working and travelling in this country and abroad that, in the right environment, alcohol can be enjoyed responsibly. 

"The nature of Tribe will be focussed around arts, culture and creative activities. We won't have big groups, drinks offers or attract people wanting to party.

"There's already a scene for that at the other side of town.

"Tribe is a place for informal, relaxed socialising which may, or may not, include responsible alcohol consumption alongside food, retail and creative experiences.

"Our licensing application and the measures we've put forward to mitigate risk reflect this, and we're taking advice and instruction from local authority and police licensing teams to ensure we create the ambience we intend.

Carlisle City Council secured £150,000 from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) to support the design and creation of the site.

The money comes from accelerated funding in relation to Carlisle’s overall Towns Fund application.

The project is intended to be part of the council's plans to help the local economy recover after the Covid-19 pandemic.

Carlisle City Council's Portfolio holder for Culture, Heritage and Leisure, Cllr Stephen Higgs, said: "We are doing all we can to support the local economy and the temporary Bitts Park courtyard will be populated by local businesses and will provide additional amenities for the benefit of park users.

"It will house up to 13 small independent businesses, with a diverse mixture of tenants that includes food and drink, retail and arts. Tenants will be either start-ups, looking to grow or well-established in the local area, which will ensure a collaborative, diverse and progressive working environment."