Full steam ahead for Fleetwood's multi-million pound fish park as work begins
The sound of bulldozers at work signalled the start of progress this week on a new multi-million pound fish and food park on Fleetwood Docks.
Project Neptune - the building of a new, modern commercial food processing facility - is finally under way and will be the new home for some of the current fish processing businesses in the port when it officially opens, expected to be in spring next year.
Diggers have begun the groundwork on the Dock Avenue site, currently owned by Associated British Ports (ABP), in a scheme set in motion by a £4m Government grant last year.
It is projected that the scheme can help generate up to100 new jobs in Fleetwood s fish-processing sector, which currently employs around 250 people in the town.
There is even hope among some that the extra trade could eventually lead to an increase in Fleetwood's fish and shellfish-catching side, with the cherished prospect of more boats fishing out of Fleetwood and landing in the port, once famous for its huge fishing fleet.
Project Neptune, led by Wyre Council, working in partnership with ABP, will create a 40,500 sq ft modern commercial food processing facility providing space for 11 businesses housed in two state-of the-art buildings, replacing the dilapidated premises some have had to work in.
Andrew Riches, chairman of Fleetwood Fish Merchants Association, said: "This project is a reality and hopefully it will be ready to roll by March next year.
"The fish processing sector in Fleetwood is already in a good place at the moment, with the owners of 16 boats from the Cumbria ports and Wales now bringing their fish overland to be processed here in Fleetwood, because they know of our reputation here.
"We are keeping that tradition here in Fleetwood alive and well, so the advantages of having improved facilities and investment here can only make things even better."
He added that with a small number of boats still landing shellfish and fish in Fleetwood and some dredging work currently being carried out in the channel, Government incentives such as more favourable quotas could boost the currently small catching sector in the town.
He added: "The potential to have a larger fishing fleet is still there in Fleetwood, if conditions are right."
It is hoped that this project will unlock future investment for Fleetwood to safeguard the existing fish processing industry jobs and create the new ones.
The successful joint bid by Wyre Council and ABP for £4m from the UK Government’s Getting Building Fund kick-started the project.
Neptune has been facilitated by the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership, as well as capital investment from Wyre Council to purchase the facility and financial support from Lancashire County Council's Lancashire Economic Recovery and Growth Fund.
In 2020, the Government announced a £900 million Getting Building Fund to deliver jobs, skills and infrastructure across the country.
This Fund is being targeted in areas facing the biggest economic challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is supporting the delivery of shovel-ready infrastructure projects, agreed with Lancashire Enterprise Partnerships to boost economic growth and fuel local recovery and jobs.
Coun Michael Vincent, Deputy Leader of Wyre Council and Portfolio Holder for Resources at Wyre Council, commented, “The creation of a modern day fish and food processing facility has been high on our agenda for many years and we’re very pleased that the work has now begun.
“We hope that Project Neptune is just the start of great things to come for Fleetwood.”
County CounAidy Riggott, Lancashire County Council cabinet member for economic development and growth, said: "We established the Lancashire Economic Recovery and Growth Fund to support schemes which can be quickly developed following the pandemic to secure local jobs and invest in future growth, and I'm very pleased that work is already getting underway on Project Neptune which will be so vital to Fleetwood's economy."
David Taylor CBE DL, Chair of the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership said, "This is an exciting project that will boost Fleetwood's economy and create jobs whilst maintaining the town's historic links with fishing and the sea. I'm really pleased that the LEP and the Getting Building Fund have been able to support Project Neptune and get it to this point."