Doubts have been raised about Fleetwood’s much-vaunted £20m fish and food park – hoped to be operational by early next year.
And Cat Smith, the MP for Lancaster and Fleetwood, has this week called on the company behind the plans, Reform Energy, to clarify where it now stands with the scheme.
The MP says that if the fish project does not take off, there could be an alternative in the pipeline to re-invigorate the docks while still supporting the town’s vital fish processing industry.
A spokesman for Reform said he was unable to issue a statement about progress or answer concerns about the scheme’s future because he was unable to contact CEO John Potter.
It has also been revealed the company has not been in contact with the town’s fish merchants themselves since around late November.
The amenity is planned as a state-of-the art purpose-built building in which the town’s fish merchants and processors could display their wares to customers under one roof.
Some of them are still in dilapidated premises, despite the industry being vital to the local economy.
This week a Fleetwood fish industry source, who did not wish to be named, said: “We’ve heard from another credible party that Reform Energy may not be able to go ahead with the scheme and that finance appears to be an issue.
“There will be a lot of disappointment if the fish park doesn’t go ahead because a lot of fish processors and merchants see it as a way of improving facilities and helping to create extra jobs.”
The fish processing industry employs around 600 people in Fleetwood. It is hoped the fish park could bring 150 more.
It would be powered by a neighbouring re-cycling plant which originally given the green light by Wyre in 2012, while the fish park proposals were approved by Wyre planners in September 2015.
It was proposed that the recycling plant would be built this year and the plant and fish park would be up and running on land off Jameson Road, owned by Associated British Ports (ABP), by early 2018.
But there appears to be little progress.
Steve Hanvey, president of Fleetwood Fish Merchants Association, would not be drawn on speculation about the park – but said the merchants had not met with Reform since around November last year.
Fleetwood councillor Terry Rogers said: “We have not heard anything about progress on this scheme for a long time and there are concerns about it in the town.”
And the town’s Labour MP, Cat Smith, said: “I have struggled to get any clarity on the future of the fish park and speaking to those close to the project I’m concerned that its future is in jeopardy.
“It appears the whole project never got any further that a series of press releases.
“As Fleetwood’s MP I’m asking questions and if it transpires that the fish park was never more than an idea on a page I’ll be working for an alternative redevelopment plan for the port.
“I have recently met with ABP and there are other options out there for redeveloping and reinvigorating the area whilst supporting and respecting the fish processing industry we do have.
“The priority now is clarity and I’d urge those involved to clarify where things stand right now.”
Ms Smith said she was not in a position at this stage to say what the other options were.
A spokesman for ABP, landlord to many of the fish merchants and the land owner of the fish park site, said: “ABP supports a range of development opportunities at Fleetwood and we value the Fleetwood fishing heritage.
“We continue to work with interested parties in developing a fish processing park at Fleetwood.”