The developer behind the proposed Fleetwood Quays project has said that the scheme “will be different from anything not just on the Fylde coast, but in the UK”.
Talking to Place North West, John Woodman, a co-director of Wyre Dock Development along with Frank Heald, said that the scheme has taken inspiration from the Eden Project and the Beamish Museum, County Durham’s open-air attraction, both of which draw heavy visitor numbers.
The project looks to redevelop 50 acres adjacent to Wyre Dock and Fleetwood’s Fish Dock and will cost somewhere between £100m and £150m, Woodman said, for which negotiations with investors ongoing.
The intention of the scheme mapped out by lead architect Brock Carmichael is for it to include visitor attractions including a botanic centre, along with a heritage centre, retail & leisure, residential and a hotel.
Associated British Ports is the landowner, and the scheme cannot move forward with works on site until ABP has relocated businesses in the fish-processing supply chain to a consolidated, single-purpose building elsewhere on its land, something that doesn’t appear to be a sticking point.
Wyre Dock Development hopes to progress the site over the course of 2018 and start on site in 2019, with a phased scheme taking three to four years.
Woodman said: “We’ve had and continue to have discussions with Lancashire County Council, Lancashire LEP, Fleetwood Town Council and Wyre and Blackpool Council’s along with the China-Britain Business Council. This is a very ambitious proposal, a groundbreaking exercise for a town like Fleetwood, which in my view is badly in need of new investment.”
Although no decisions have yet been made as to the square footage of each element, Woodman said that they “have a full awareness” of how the scheme might fit in to the town alongside the successful Fleetwood Freeport outlet village, which lies adjacent to the scheme, and existing town centre retail. Should planning permission be secured, a project manager would be appointed to take development forward.
As to target areas for investment, China is clearly being explored. The visitor attractions at the site will include a ‘Gardens of China’ area, and the heritage of the Silk Road will be included. From closer to home, historic Blackpool trams have been procured to transport visitors around the site. Woodman’s career has included several projects where has transferred heritage European trams to projects in the US.
The scheme, on which Arup has been involved, is intended to tie in with works at the Jubilee Quays riverfront, also in the ownership of ABP, which will allow it to link more effectively with the town centre.
The benefits for Fleetwood, according to documents prepared for public consultation, include not just upward of 300 jobs in the scheme itself, but a possible electric tram connection with Blackpool’s light rail service at the existing ferry terminus.
The developer also floats the possibility of attracting private sector investment to a reopened rail link connecting Fleetwood and Thornton with Poulton-le-Fylde and beyond, using tram-train technology.