Like many of Britain’s seaside towns, Fleetwood has struggled to revive its former glory, but the town’s residents have genuine hope there are better times ahead, writes Frank Heald of Wyre Dock Development.
Eight miles north from Blackpool’s family fun and party nights is Fleetwood. With the decline of the fishing industry over the last 30 years, poor transportation links and some troubling health and wellbeing statistics the town is typical of many coastal locations struggling to find an identity and revive its former glories. Yet there is genuine hope among the residents that better times are ahead, for them as individuals and the community as a whole.
I am Fleetwood-born and joined the family-owned grocery Healds from university to see the business develop into the convenience store chain Day and Nite. I also founded and until recently was the Chairman of Voiteq, a leading global provider of voice-directed work solutions.
I’ve been passionate about making a difference to my home town and local community so I founded the Haldane Trust in 2000, a charity focussing on help for young and disadvantaged residents. I’m a great believer in action rather than words and making a difference where I can, active in several projects to reinvigorate the town and provide opportunities for future generations to achieve their potential.
As a director of Wyre Dock Development, I am working with Liverpool-based architects Brock Carmichael on Fleetwood Quays, a bold proposal to transform an area of the docks and waterfront into an all-year round leisure and retail destination offering employment and training opportunities.
The former Fleetwood Hospital, largely derelict and underused for the past decade has been acquired by the Fleetwood Trust with the aim of creating a new community asset, a hub for the many voluntary groups and individuals supporting residents’ health and wellbeing alongside the existing primary care services. As a trustee I can see this is an exciting and unique opportunity to create a vibrant, community-led facility, somewhere residents can identify as their own and take pride in.
In April this year I was invited to share my thoughts with a House of Lords Select Committee report on the Future of Seaside Towns during their visit to Fleetwood. The report highlighted the need for investment, imaginative solutions to the decline in traditional industry and less reliance on tourism. Seaside towns must be inspired to regain their pioneering spirit and evolve to meet present day and future challenges.
If we can combine the passion of residents to take control of their future with the willingness of the commercial sector to invest, I have no doubt that there are great opportunities and a bright future ahead for Fleetwood.