£4m boost secures transformation plans for town’s new digital and gaming hub

CGI of Whittles building plans

A project to transform the former Whittles building in Whitehaven into a digital and gaming hub has been approved having secured £4m of backing from Sellafield and BT.

Social impact property developer, BEC, will be delivering the futuristic scheme to support and encourage the development of future digital and tech leaders. The hub will provide essential training and upskilling with a ‘futuristic’ development and regeneration at the heart of it.

The Whittles building was acquired by BEC in 2021 and since then BEC has held public consultations, garnering support from community members and local academia partners.

Michael Pemberton, BEC CEO, said: “The team at BEC have worked tirelessly over the last couple of years from the initial purchase, building a business case and holding public consultations.

“With this scheme, we will be addressing the digital skills gap and opening doors to exciting opportunities in the digital and creative sectors with the development, through work and learning experiences, industry connections and guidance.

“Our partnership and close relationship with Sellafield Ltd and Cumberland Council has enabled us to announce such brilliant news today. We’re embarking on an exciting journey ahead, working closely with the community and a range of incredible partners to bring to life the Digital and Gaming hub.”

Across four floors the hub will include a digital recording studio, cafe, esports and VR area, green screens, and a rooftop terrace that will be supported by several local partners in the former furniture store building on Duke Street in the heart of Whitehaven’s town centre.

Leader of Cumberland Council, Cllr Mark Fryer, said: “We welcome any plans that provide economic growth to our area. This is great news for Whitehaven and will bring a redundant building back into use, providing new training opportunities for future generations.”

The scheme has secured £2.8m in funding from Sellafield Ltd’s Social Impact Multiplied scheme (SiX) with a further £800,000 from BT matched with a £485,000 contribution from BEC themselves.

Gary McKeating, Head of Community and Development at Sellafield Ltd, said: “I’m grateful to all the partners who continue to show that our impact is multiplied when we work together on the issues that matter to our communities.”

Andy Rowe, Director in the Corporate and Public Sector unit at BT, said: “This important project will deliver a major boost for the area and is part of a wider £2m investment we are making to support social value schemes in West Cumbria under our partnership work with Sellafield.”

BEC said construction will start in early summer 2024, and the current expectation for opening to be in the third quarter of 2025.