Earnse Bay Outdoor Centre

The proposed outdoor community hub at Earnse Bay on Walney Island forms part of the #BrilliantBarrow initiative - a series of innovative projects to have secured an offer of £25 million in funding from the Government's Towns Fund. 

Cumbria County Council have partnered with Natural England who have allocated funding for an Environmental Hub on the Earnse Bay site. The proposed development is:

  • a new Outdoor Activity Centre for Cumbria County Council 
  • an Outdoor Education Facility for Natural England
  • the creation of park land and outdoor community space. 

Natural England identified that the site would be the preferred location for the development of an environmental hub to support the North Walney National Nature Reserve and are now working with the project team to design a building that complements the Outdoor Centre and enhances the environmental education and development activities on offer.  

The outdoor centre will be part of a network of three locally based Community Wellbeing Hubs located at Ormsgill, Barrow Town Centre and Barrow Island. These hubs will support Barrow to develop skills, access services and come together to build thriving communities. The Earnse Bay outdoor centre in particular will provide access for local communities to open spaces and outdoor education.  

The concept designs, which have been developed by Align Property Partners, working with Collingridge and Smith Architects, and Westwood Landscaping draw upon ideas put forward by members of the public, stakeholder groups and children at five local schools during a series of engagement events.

In November 2022, Earnse Bay Outdoor Centre planning application was submitted to Barrow Borough Council for both Cumbria County Council and Natural England which covers the whole site.


The Cumbria County Council part of the scheme will be funded by £3.1 million from the #BrilliantBarrow Town Deal, which secured £25 million from the Government's Towns Fund earlier this year.

Brilliant Barrow website

Planning Application

The Planning Application has been submitted in November 2022. Decisions on the planning application are due to be made in February 2023 by Barrow Borough Council with construction of the Outdoor Hub due to commence in November 2023.

Barrow Borough Council website

Various public consultation events were held throughout 2021 and 2022 which helped to gather views on the latest designs before progressing further. The events that took place were:

Between Friday 25 June and Wednesday 1 July 2021 at various different locations around Barrow and Walney Island. 

Key points raised were:

  • Residents were concerned about noise and having activities bordering their homes. 
  • Many members of the public wanted quiet areas within the site to sit and meet with friends.
  • There is a lot of wildlife within the site currently and many people were keen to protect this and keep as much as possible.

On 31 August 2022 a landscaping workshop took place on the Earnse Bay site. 

Key points raised were:

  • Residents were concerned about the proximity of the camping pods and asked if these could be relocated.
  • Many residents mentioned an outside teaching area for school visiting and also for community groups.
  • Residents also mentioned the idea of keeping the main middle area of the site versatile so that it can be used for many different activities.

On 20 October 2022 two events were held with one being at Walney Golf Club and the other at the Forum. 

Key points raised were:

  • Members of the public shared the view that the shop would be a good idea and liked that it would be for essential items.
  • Residents were happier with the new location of the camping pods away from their homes.

Draft Vision for the project

  • To create an outdoor activity and educational space, that creates opportunities and builds a healthy, thriving community that is delivering for the natural environment. 
  • A safe and secure space for local children and families to camp and spend time in the natural environment.
  • Earnse for everyone.

Operation of the Site

During the technical design stage of the project, we will be looking at bringing the right operator/s for the site onboard. Once timescales and processes for this have been agreed they will be shared on this webpage.

November 2022 update

  • The planning application has been submitted to Barrow Borough Council and a decision is expected in February 2023.

Spatial Design (May 2022 to October 2022)

Planning Submission and Determination (October 2022 to February 2023)

Technical Design (March 2023 to July 2023)

Construction Starts (November 2023)

Earnse Bay Outdoor Centre Opens (May 2025)

If you have any queries or comments regarding the Earnse Bay Outdoor Centre project, please contact the project team at EarnseBay@cumbria.gov.uk 

Overview of the site

An overview of the site looking east from the Earnse Bay car park, from this view you can see the Cumbria County Council and Natural England buildings in the forefront. Around the perimeter of the site the current planting will be kept and maintained, and much more landscaping work will be done in the project.

A view looking west at the new buildings

A view looking west at the new buildings, the Cumbria County Council building is on the left and the Natural England building on the right. On the Cumbria County Council side, you can see the external seating and planting and on the Natural England side you can see the outdoor classrooms.

A potential view of the outdoor landscape area

A potential view of the outdoor landscape area with seating areas and plant archways.

A view of the cafe

A view of the café within the Cumbria County Council building looking out onto the outdoor seating area through the ceiling high back windows.

A view of the Cumbria County Council classrooms area

A view of the Cumbria County Council classrooms area with a sliding door shown to be able to split the classroom into 2 smaller areas. In the back there is also a training kitchen for classes to take place in.