WHEN Maryport missed out on getting a new public swimming pool, the town was ‘torn apart’.

But Sean Parnaby, chairman of the Maryport Business Group, was determined that the community would be heard and set about making sure residents and business owners took control of decision-making in the town.

After the swimming pool plans were pulled last year amid ‘spiralling costs’, the Maryport Business Group met with Cumberland Council and initiated setting up a Town Board that would guide the delivery of future projects in the town.

Maryport is to benefit from a £12million regeneration scheme with funding for projects including a harbourside events area, a promenade café, a skate park and a new play park. 

The Town Board, which is made up of business people, town councillors, the harbour authority and the local MP, meet up with council officers every two weeks.

There are a number of sub-groups for each project, made up of interested parties, who help the officers deliver the projects.

The community have been involved throughout the process and public votes have been held to select the colours of the recently-opened boardwalk and to select a design for the new ‘Shiver Me Timbers’ playpark.

In Cumbria: The public were given the opportunity to select the design of the new 'Shiver Me Timbers' play park in MaryportThe public were given the opportunity to select the design of the new 'Shiver Me Timbers' play park in Maryport (Image: Cumberland Council)

Mr Parnaby, who is the managing director of bespoke timber company, West Port, said: “What we’ve done very differently is involve a lot more people in the process and allowed for a lot more say from the community about what’s going on.

“This has not been done by an officer sat somewhere, it’s how people actually want it. That influence has happened all the way through every single project.

“Instead of people sitting back complaining, saying the council has done it wrong, we’re in a position where the council are working with us to deliver what people want.

“There’s still a lot of work to be done but there are a lot of people involved who are driving it forward. We’ve been successful in bringing the community in to what’s going on in the town, rather than telling the community what they’re going to be getting.

“It works a lot better because you’re getting a lot more people involved in the process.

“We are helping with the decision-making process and we are coming up with solutions. We know what’s needed in the town.

“It should be the people investing and living in the town making decisions. They have more understanding about what’s needed.”

In Cumbria: The community were involved in choosing the colour scheme for the new boardwalk which recently opened in MaryportThe community were involved in choosing the colour scheme for the new boardwalk which recently opened in Maryport (Image: Tom Kay Photographic)

Mr Parnaby said Maryport was now ‘going in the right direction’ and more positive things were being said about the town.

There has also been a rise in visitor numbers and increased business activity – with new businesses including a wine bar, shops and a new bakery will soon be opening.

Mr Parnaby added: “We’ve seen a lot more movement in wanting to open a business in Maryport. We are getting a lot more interest because the investment is being made in the right way.

“When people looked at Maryport in the beginning, they said it’s full of charity shops and takeaways. Now we’ve got these fantastic shops that are opening up.

“We’ve got more people coming to the town because we’ve got more attractions. That’s what the long-term goal is.”

A Cumberland Council spokesperson said: "We've worked closely with the Future Town Board and the local community to deliver transformational schemes in Maryport. Engagement in decision making has been key to the successful delivery of the plans.

 "We've consulted on various aspects and have been delighted with the positive responses and the level of engagement. We would like to thank everyone that has played a part in the development of the regeneration schemes."