Fleetwood’s famous fishing industry and trawler fleets originated from purpose built docks off the River Wyre allowing unloading and processing of huge volumes of fish; especially cod and haddock, for distribution to markets throughout England over many decades. Special fish trains ran directly from the dockside to ensure fast delivery. Today, whilst much of this infrastructure remains, the trains have gone as have the trawlers, with fish handling now being dealt with by road.
Fish processing still remains through specialist work of local companies providing employment for over six hundred people in Fleetwood. The River Wyre leading into Morecambe Bay has been impacted further by silting of deep vessel channels which formerly allowed sea-going ferries to handle cargo, vehicles and passengers into and out of the town’s port. Consequent decline of this important trade has left existing port facilities dormant and awaiting new purpose.
The Operator of the port - Associated British Ports has launched a strategy to secure new investment and meaningful economic regeneration for their waterfront assets. This has led to constructive discussions with Fleetwood Heritage Leisure Trust whose initiatives are aimed at the development of a new visitor attraction in Fleetwood using several preserved Blackpool trams in storage at Wyre Dock and in ownership of the Trust.
Taking lessons from the experience of similar transport heritage venues both in the UK, Europe and the USA - an emergent proposal that brings together commercial development with heritage leisure is now the subject of detailed proposals for Wyre Dock. Wyre Dock Development Ltd. has been created to work as catalyst for a joined up scheme in which existing fish processing jobs and businesses are protected and enhanced; whilst a totally new chapter for this important Fleetwood waterfront infrastructure is rolled out. Old trams provide a popular and attractive means of moving people within a large site using the most economic space. San Francisco, New Orleans, Porto, Beamish Open Air Museum, Christchurch, Memphis, Portland and Auckland are among the growing number of towns and cities with proven benefit in reviving tourism, mixed with urban centre regeneration by the utilising old trams as people movers. Vintage trams in themselves provide only part of a successful visitor attraction. There is need for clustering of compelling and varied displays, museums, galleries and events within a defined site development. Commercial and residential elements draw benefit through the profusion of cultural, social and heritage assets in proximity - while crucially underpinning the financial viability of significant capital investment.
Wyre Dock Development Ltd., together with their lead advisor Arup; in conjunction with Associated British Ports, is now working on a comprehensive and viable plan to bring about transformation of this part of Fleetwood by creating a new landmark visitor destination on the Fylde coast. Utilising dockside assets and infrastructure, a consolidated leisure led development, differing in content and approach from the existing seaside offer of Blackpool, is being drawn up with international funding in mind. Of importance is a development that draws visitors year round; requiring all-weather key attractions of high value and unique to Fleetwood’s Wyre Dock project. Several anchor features have been selected that stand apart from current leisure offer in the north of England and intended to heighten the profile of Fleetwood for visitors, both domestic and from overseas.
The town is already famous for being the home of ‘Fisherman’s Friend’, a family owned company with worldwide brand reach and its production centre in immediate proximity to Wyre Dock. Fleetwood Town Football Club is excelling itself in the English Football League; being a contender for reaching Championship level in 2017 - the smallest town in England to do so and within the shortest time from non-league status.
Fleetwood’s physical links to its famous neighbour on the Fylde coast, Blackpool, is through the longstanding electric tramway (since 1898) which runs between the two towns carrying millions of visitors during the summer months. Whilst the railway line which formerly ran into Wyre Dock from Poulton Le Fylde and Preston, has been disconnected for many years, the Wyre Dock scheme has in mind rejuvenating this important transport asset through innovative energy technology involving ‘tram train’ development. A protected right of way continues to run to the dock location from Poulton station, where a newly electrified main rail service (from 2019) brings frequent trains from Preston and the West Coast Mainline. Other tram train proposals in proximity to Fleetwood and Blackpool are under consideration by several groups. For the moment the main road link to Wyre Dock and Fleetwood is the A585 bringing traffic from the A6, and M55 junction at Kirkham. This is the subject of active review for new investment to alleviate tailbacks and limited road capacity at peak periods.
This website will be providing updates and further information on the Wyre Dock scheme in conjunction with Associated British Ports and other Partners working in support of the project. Wyre Dock Development Ltd. is led by John Woodman and Frank Heald whose initiatives with others led to the conservation of several classic Blackpool trams from the 1930s which will provide and attractive visitor service around the scheme.
Their work has drawn support from Fleetwood Town Council, Rossall School, the Blackpool, Fylde and Wyre Economic Development Company as well as many businesses on the Fylde coast. The proposals now being pursued are not isolated initiatives for Fleetwood’s future. New energy related investment is underway in several forms close to Fleetwood, in particular at the Hillhouses Enterprise Zone which formerly was a major site of ICI. Both onshore and offshore energy investment guarantees long term employment in many sectors. However the Wyre Dock development will draw attention of millions to this part of Lancashire’s coastline, leading to a new and vibrant profile for the town of Fleetwood and sustainable employment opportunities for its community.
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