Two hundred and fifty jobs could be created in the next five years if plans for a new factory in Penrith are given the go-ahead.
Andy Barr, of Appleby-based nuclear engineering firm Barrnon, has submitted plans to Eden Council to turn a site near Penrith’s auction mart into a hi-tech research and development facility.
The move is to meet rising global demand for his innovative Barrnon prototypes in the nuclear decommissioning sector.
Mr Barr, who owns the Cumberland & Westmorland Herald, said that if the plan is approved, the new facility would also become home to the 160-year-old newspaper and its staff, with the intention of maintaining a separate town-centre presence for the Herald.
Permission is being sought to develop an eight-acre site off Mile Lane, Penrith, where a multi-use building would provide a test facility for the cutting-edge robotics equipment in which Barrnon specialises, along with 50,000 square feet of manufacturing space and 37,000 square feet of offices, on two levels.
Workshops, and research and development areas for Barrnon, as well as an outdoor “lay down” testing area, would sit alongside office space for the Herald and a small museum space dedicated to the historic title.
The plans also include a cafe for the use of staff and visitors.
Mr Barr said that given the new facility and room to grow, Barrnon would look to employ 250-plus people in skilled and well paid work going forward.
He said the Penrith site was strategically important as a throughway to Sellafield.
He said it would move Barrnon within reach of significant transport networks including the West Coast Main Line and M6 motorway and make it better placed to link with potential customers on Cumbria’s nuclear coast as well as the firm’s international client base.
The new base would also allow for enhanced security — vital given the classified nature of much of Barrnon’s work.
“Barrnon has been really successful and is currently looking at around £8 million of work, with strong pull from a number of international decommissioning facilities,” he said.
“The growth of the business has been exponential over the past four or five years, with turnover doubling every 12 to 18 months.
“With the level of work we have currently we are not able to fit in our existing premises and we need to find additional space to deliver on this.”
Mr Barr added: “It has always been Barrnon’s ambition to stay in the local area and deliver solutions from here.
“For the last two years we have been looking for an alternative site and I am pleased to say we now have one in mind.
“It has been tough to find the right site as, working in the nuclear sector a number of criteria have to be met as a great many of our projects are classified.”