Calls to be positive on port future

The last Stena Line ferry leaving Fleetwood.
The last Stena Line ferry leaving Fleetwood.

This is the rallying call to Fleetwood residents by Wyre Council Leader Peter Gibson after the chances of the port regaining its ferry service to Ireland were dealt a massive blow.

The Competition Commission investigating ferry firm Stena, who stopped operating from Fleetwood to Larne in December, says the service would have closed no matter what and there was no significant loss of competition on the Irish Sea – putting Stena in the clear. In addition, the preliminary findings also said the loss of the service was linked to a decision to buy other Irish Sea routes from DFDS Seaways.

Coun Gibson has now vowed to look at all options available to Fleetwood to move the town forward, as its 175th anniversary celebrations continue.

He told The Weekly News: “It’s a question of looking at what options we have and what options are possible.

“It’s really important we don’t have people talking Fleetwood down again because we have many attractions and businesses in the town.

“We will be doing all we can with Associated British Ports (ABP) because they own it and will determine what options are available.

“As a council we don’t run tourist departments but we would certainly be happy to look at options to bring in visitors and improve the economy in Fleetwood.”

Coun Gibson says all councillors should remain positive about their hopes for the town and work together to produce the best results.

He added: “We all get set-backs and disappointment but we need to push on and stay positive and not be inward looking and negative.”

Calls for an immediate reassessment of how the town will now go forward after the news was revealed were made by councillors and members of parliament.

Fleetwood MP Eric Ollerenshaw said: “It’s extremely disappointing. Now we will have to get back to what’s happening in the port with Associated British Ports (ABP) to see if there are any other carriers interested or to see if we can get into the wind farm repair business to keep the port moving.”

Coun Barry Birch, Wyre Council’s portfolio holder for the economy, said it was bad news.

But he added: “We must look to the future. Fleetwood can’t afford to remain static.

“I will continue to promote the area to potential investors. It’s essential that residents and businesses in the port don’t let heads go down.”

Terry Rogers, chairman of Fleetwood Town Council, has urged influential figures in Fleetwood to work together and focus on leisure and tourism.

He said: “The emphasis need to be put on the fact we are not going to be getting the carrier in the future. We are spending hours and hours on tourism because that is all Fleetwood has to offer.”

The commission will make a final decision by July 25 after submissions from interested parties.

Michael McGrath, area director in the Irish Sea for Stena, said he was “satisfied” and added: “We can now proceed with more detailed planning for the Irish Sea routes.

“We will continue to work closely and liaise with the Competition Commission as they move towards a final ruling.”

Mike Sanderson, chairman of The Fleetwood Chamber of Trade and Commerce, says the town needs to start investing in new transport links and improving existing ones.

He said: “The railway coming back to Fleetwood would be a great boost because it would give other options to the A585.

“Once that is in place and we have some infrastructure on the highway it will start to look attractive to people wanting to create jobs. Lets get the trams back in the town and transportation moving so we can make it more attractive to people outside the area.”