Fish merchants and processors at Fleetwood have welcomed the green light for the town’s fish and food park – and hope it could mean more jobs.
An already thriving industry, which together employs around 600 people and generates £135m a year, sees a golden chance to improve premises and boost trade still further with a possible 150 new jobs estimated.
While there was some excitement at the news, many firms tempered their optimism with a note of caution; after all, they have been hearing about the fish park proposals for the past 10 years,
One business welcoming the news is shellfish exporter AM Seafood, based at Siding Road, which is confident of a jobs boost.
The company expanded its premises two years ago and took on extra staff, but now the company says trade is so strong it needs to extend its operation again.
The firm, which processes shellfish caught in the Irish Sea and exports to Europe and the Far East, says the plans provide a chance to grow still further.
With between 180 and 220 staff, depending on seasonal fluctuation, it is already a major employer, although on the catching side many of the Irish Sea boats are from North Wales, Whitehaven and the Isle of Man.
Scott Merrick, production director, said: “The fish park plans are welcome for several reasons.
“Firstly, the recycling of energy at the new power station fits in with our own plans to recycle waste.
“Secondly, we’re over-producing on the site we’re at, despite the expansion of the premises two years ago,
“Moving to a new site with more space will help us increase our exports and create new jobs.
“The potential at this new site is huge and will give us another lease of life, like the one we experienced two years ago.
“Our main focus is on modernisation and a new purpose-built fish park would help us acheive that.”
At the Midland Fish Company, based at the Fish Market down on the docks, partner Ken Hayton Jr said: “It’s fantastic news and just what the industry and Fleetwood needs.
“For companies to move forward they need modern facilities, ourselves included.
“What we have to do now is all pull together to make sure it does it happen, because it’s been a long time coming.”
The company employs 34 people in a business which prepares plaice, cod, haddock and salmon – brought in from Scotland and the Faroe Islands – and then exports it to a European market.
Asked how the plans would help Midland, Mr Hayton said: “Our current premises do limit us.
“If we wanted to bring down potential clients, we would be able to offer them so much more if we had more space and a better lay-out to show what we do. It would do our client base no harm at all.”
At Jack Wrights, on Herring Arm Road, head of sales Alan Wilson, said: “It can only be a good thing, it sounds like a good set up.
“In a new, more spacious building, we would have the room to diversify and that would mean extra business and hopefully more jobs.”
The company employs between 40 and 50 people, with salmon processing a large part of the business.
Mr Wilson added: “Now it is just a question of waiting to find out more about how the move will work in principle.”
And at a smaller business, Phoenix Fish, on Herring Arm Road, owner Wendy Pringle, said: “We are a smaller firm which employs just five people.
“Although it’s a win-win situation, we need to find out more about any extra costs involved because that would affect a business like ours more.
“If there are rises in rent, will that be offset by a competitive package on the electric and energy costs? We need to dot the i’s and cross the t’s.”