SOUTH Lakeland District Council says its vision to help create 1000 jobs and 1000 affordable rented homes in the next decade 'has moved a step closer'.

It follows the council's ruling Lib Dem cabinet backing a revised draft Council Plan which is due to be rubber-stamped by full Council on February 25.

SLDC says economic growth is a key priority of the new plan and says it aims to attract investment and higher-paid jobs to at least three major employment sites.

It says it also earmarks the areas along the M6 corridor, Furness, and to the east of the district for 'significant growth'.

The authority said the broad aims of the overall plan are to:

* Enable and deliver opportunities for economic growth

* Provide homes to meet need;

* Improve residents’ health and wellbeing

* And protect the environment

It adds there is a strong focus on improving town-centre shopping areas by working in partnership with local businesses and parish councils to address the issues of empty shops and properties.

The council said it aims to undertake 'a strategic review' of its car parks to 'increase economic benefits' to towns across the district.

Sustainable transport options, including walking and cycling projects, will also be encouraged, it said.

The council plan will support the recently-agreed Local Plan which earmarked 88 sites, 68 for housing, and 20 for employment, across South Lakeland.

The Canal Head areas of Kendal and Ulverston will be a focus for sustainable development, said the council, as will Grange-over-Sands and Kirkby Lonsdale.

It says a community infrastructure levy will be introduced to support new development and provide local facilities.

Coun Giles Archibald, SLDC portfolio holder for town-centres and small business, said in a statement: “We want to ensure our towns and villages thrive commercially whilst retaining their distinctive character.

“We will listen to traders and communities so we can work closely with them to maximise commercial opportunities. We want to attract retail businesses to our town centres.”

“But while retail is vital it is not the only thing which brings life to our towns. We want to provide exciting cultural and social events to maintain a vibrant atmosphere which all our residents can be proud of.”

Coun Archibald said addressing the issue of empty shops, and vacant properties above shops, would be a major priority.

The council will work with partners, including North Country Leisure, the North-East based firm which won the contract to provide services from leisure centres in Kendal and Ulverston from April, to improve the health and wellbeing of residents.

The overall plan includes: increasing awareness of dementia; reducing isolation for older people; supporting cultural groups and helping communities to make the best use of parks and spaces.

There is also a major emphasis on protecting the environment including: tackling dog-fouling, fly tipping and environmental nuisance.

Kerbside recycling will be extended and residents will be helped to reduce carbon emissions and become more energy efficient, said the authority.

SLDC Leader Peter Thornton stressed that the council would have to work closely with its partners to achieve its target of 1000 jobs and 1000 affordable rented homes.

Cllr Thornton said in the statement: “South Lakeland is a special area but to maintain what makes it special we have to ensure that young people can grow up here with the expectation of finding a solid job and a home they can afford.

“We want our residents to have healthy fulfilled lives. We are determined to make South Lakeland the best place to live, work, and explore.”