Plans for a £200 million transformation of Fleetwood’s Wyre Dock have been inspired by some of the best regeneration projects in the UK - and even a global tourist attraction.
It would change a run-down dock area into a high class attraction pulling in visitors all year round and transforming the town’s economy.
A formal presentation of the Fleetwood Quays scheme, staged on Wednesday night at the town’s Rossall School, has revealed details of the widely-ranging initiative for the first time.
And an audience of local councillors, business people and organisations were presented with scheme of almost jaw-dropping complexity, with many potential elements to it.
A start date of 2019 has been put forward, and the prospect of between 300 and 350 new full time jobs.
Fleetwood docks were once packed with trawlers, with fishing being the town’s biggest industry.
But after the final Cod War in the late 1970s, the industry declined rapidly and the dockland has never recovered.
Frank Heald, the Fleetwood-born business who is a director of Wyre Dock Development Ltd, which is behind the scheme, officially launched it and said: “It’s all about Fleetwood, a town with a fascinating history.
“Fleetwood has a some good things going for it but it has also suffered some major blows.
“So it needs a lot more - we believe it’s future lies in the visitor economy, and with this 50 acre dockland site, what follows is how we can do it.”
Dockland owner Associated British Ports (ABP) is backing the plans.
Carl Bevan, ABP’s divisional ports manager for the North West, told the meeting: “I have seen what has happened in other struggling dockside areas of the country, where they have been transformed into attractions with a vibrant day and night time economy which have become successful and affluent.
“That can happen here.
“It would transform and benefit not just Fleetwood but the whole of the coast in this region.”
While there are hopes of attracting more vessels to Fleetwood marina, he also said of other dockside activity: “I don’t see a commercial port in the future.”
The scheme - projected to cost between £130 million and £200 million pounds - will include a botanical glasshouse element, on a Chinese theme, inspired by Cornwall’s famous Eden Project, the botanic greenhouse complex which attracts visitors from across the world.
There would be a display based on China’s acclaimed historic attraction, the Terracotta Army.
It would also take its cue from Portishead, another former run-down dock area which is now a vibrant high class attraction with fine restaurants and bars.
Vintage Blackpool trams, already acquired, could ferry visitors around the huge site, which would also include a transport heritage centre.
Some of Fleetwood Museum’s many heritage artefacts, currently not on exhibition for reasons of space, would be given room for displays.
And so would artefects celebrating the history of the town’s fishing history and that of success stories like Fisherman’s Friend and Fleetwood Town FC.
in addition to this, there would be a high class fish restaurant specialising in the fish which is still a key part of Fleetwood’s economy, with its successful dockside fish-processing firms.
There are even proposals to create a new, purpose-built facility for those firms, aimed at succeeding where a previous fish park scheme failed.
A four star hotel would potentially pull in visitors from all over the country and even further afield.
The development would include high class residential properties.
Wyre Dock Development Ltd are already working with Liverpool-based Brock Carmichael Architects, an established high-end enterprise whose projects have played a key role in the acclaimed regeneration of the Mersey city, as well as major projects in China.
Michael Cosser, a partner and director of Brock Carmichael, was at the presentation and told the meeting: “Fleetwood has some unique assets and we see this waterside development helping to focus new economic growth which can improve the lifestyle of people in Fleetwood.
“And the town’s own culture and heritage can help develop this regeneration and give it a distinctive sense of place.”
The team fielded some questions from the audience.
John Woodman, another director of Wyre Dock Development Ltd, who also gave a presentation, was asked about a key cornerstone of the entire project - how it would be funded.
He said that although the project was a multi-million one, the group was already in discussions with potential funders.
He said; “It is a multi-million pound scheme but the people we are dealing with are multi-million pound organisations.
“How do we do it - with persuasion and a good business case!”