Fish park may bring hundreds of jobs

Fleetwood docks
Fleetwood docks

Plans for a fish park in Fleetwood which would provide potentially hundreds of jobs in the port have been brought back under the spotlight.

Fleetwood MP Eric Ollerenshaw has requested a meeting between himself, Wyre Council and the minister responsible for coastal communities, Penny Mordaunt.

And Mrs Mordaunt, who is the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, has agreed to hold discussions on the proposals after the port’s MP raised it in Parliament.

Mr Ollerenshaw told the Weekly News: “I raised the issue and I was very pleased with her reply.

“We have to keep these plans going and try everything at our disposal to win the financial support needed.

“We need the meeting first, of course, before we discuss the nuts and bolts.

“A scheme as large as a fish park would probably need help across various Government departments, but we have to get the ball rolling and civil servants working on it.”

The move has been welcomed by Wyre’s economy portfolio holder, Coun Pete Murphy, who said: “While it is early days and no contracts have been signed, it’s fantastic to get the minister agreeing to a meeting.

“If Eric were to pave the way for funding for this scheme, the knock-on effects would be considerable for Fleetwood.”

It comes three months after Mr Ollerenshaw previously raised the issue in parliament, when he sought MPs’ support for what he called a “Billingsgate market of the North”.

Billingsate is a 13-acre site in London where fish and seafood from all over the world is sold in one, vibrant site.

Mr Ollerenshaw sees the Fleetwood fish park as a similar thing for almost 30 local firms, which process and sell fish for national and global markets, but which would benefit from better accommodation.

An area of dockland owned by Associated British Ports has been earmarked as a potential location.

The plans for a fish and food park in the town were first mooted at least a decade ago, when Wyre Council hoped for funding from various sources, including the North West Development Agency.

But when the agency disbanded, the scheme came to a halt.

Mr Ollerenshaw opened the latest discussion in Parliament when he asked Mrs Mordaunt what steps her department was taking to support coastal communities.

She told him that, since 2012, her department had provided more than £62m through the Coastal Communities Fund to deliver more than 8,500 jobs, 3,000 training places and 400 new business start-ups.

He replied: “In Fleetwood, Wyre borough council has a long-term economic plan to develop and expand the fish processing industry.

“Will the Minister and her officials meet me and representatives of the council so that we can pursue that project further?”

The minister said: “I would be happy to meet about the issue that he raises.”

Fish merchants in Fleetwood are supportive of the plans, provided that the fish park would be in the right location, although many have become sceptical because of the delays.

Coun Murphy added: “The fish processors are desperate to expand, and I know they would welcome the scheme.

“I don’t expect anything to happen until the Autumn statement around October or November, but whenever Eric and Penny want to meet to discuss this scheme, we will be more than ready to meet them.”