Fishing town looking for a net gain
Fish and Fleetwood go hand in hand. In the 50s and 60s the port was home to a fleet of around 120 trawlers and the fishing industry provided work for a third of its population.
There are still those who remember the “three-day millionaires”, the men who returned from weeks at sea to spend their overflowing wage packets and the days when you could walk the length of the main dock across the bows of its trawlers.
Those days are long gone, killed by the Cod War of the 1970s, which deprived the fleet access to Iceland’s lucrative fishing grounds and later the widespread decommissioning of boats encouraged with government cash.
The fleet may be long gone; however, fish still provides work for hundreds of people through the processing industry.
The development work currently being carried out at the docks aims to build on that, safeguarding existing operations while creating up to 100 new jobs.
Project Neptune is delivering a new commercial food processing facility in a bid to generate investment and attract more businesses into the town.
The project is backed by Lancashire County Council’s £12.8m Economic Recovery and Growth Fund, created to spur on the county’s post-pandemic recovery through investment in ‘shovel ready’ projects.
The site is currently owned by Associated British Ports (ABP) and will become the new home for some of the current fish processing businesses in the port, allowing them to grow and become more productive.
Wyre Council, working in partnership with ABP, is creating the 40,500 sq ft facility providing space for 11 businesses housed in two buildings. It is planned to be officially opened next spring.
A joint bid by Wyre Council and ABP for £4m from the government’s Getting Building Fund kick-started the project. The Lancashire Enterprise Partnership has also played its part in getting the development off the ground.
Luke Hall, minister for regional growth and local growth, says it is part of his government’s levelling up drive, adding: “We’re helping Fleetwood celebrate its fishing heritage and preserve it for generations to come.
“Developing the new, modern, facility will protect and create jobs, keeping Fleetwood on the map as a national leader in this industry.”
Coun Michael Vincent, portfolio holder for resources at Wyre Council, says the creation of a modern-day fish and food processing facility has been high on its agenda for many years.
He adds: “We hope that Project Neptune is just the start of great things to come for Fleetwood.”
To that end the council has also submitted a bid for £8.56m to the government’s Levelling Up Fund to help continue the regeneration of the town, which includes the redevelopment of the port area.
ABP has been working collaboratively with the council on the plans to redevelop a “substantial swathe” of derelict waterfront land.
Government funding would supplement Environment Agency investment in new flood defences to improve the seafront by creating “a beautiful modern linear coastal park”.
The vision is to revive the gateway into Fleetwood and provide waterside views across the estuary as well as new pedestrian and cycle connections along the coast and into the town centre. The flood defences will also unlock the site to develop 150 new homes.
The levelling up package also includes reviving derelict land next to Fleetwood Market, creating a new workspace for commercial creative business. An outdoor food market forms part of wider long-term plans.
Wyre is also looking to expand Fleetwood Museum’s offering with a fully accessible new visitor centre.
A decision on this proposed package of three interconnecting projects is expected later in the year.
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