The setting was Rossall School - the event; the formal launch of ambitious proposals to renew and regenerate the area in and around Wyre Dock, Fleetwood. The Speakers: John Woodman, Frank Heald, Principals of Wyre Dock Development Ltd., together with Carl Bevan, Regional Ports Manager for the Northwest ports of Wyre Dock's owning company, Associated British Ports, and Michael Cosser, Senior Partner of the Liverpool Architectural design company - BrockCarmichael. The date 15th November.
The School's Museum Theatre hosted an hour long presentation on a ground-breaking project which has the potential for transforming the image of Fleetwood and enhancing its appeal to visitors to the northwest. A diverse audience representing businesses, the community of Fleetwood and the north Fylde coast, and those with concerns over a need for radical change in the town's fortunes were provided with a colourful rendition of the background to now active proposals and its links with both the US and China.
Prominent amid a diversity of developments proposed for Wyre Dock is of course the intention to create a working tourist tramway and associated transport display with a restoration workshop facility. Trams owned by the Fleetwood Heritage Leisure Trust would be foremostly assigned to these objectives, whilst others may be sought to complement and strengthen a working operation throughout the year, albeit on a short line around the development initially. Preliminary discussions have taken place with both Eric Wright Group, a northwest construction company based at Preston, now working with Trampower (Preston) Ltd. to begin work on the proposed new tramway for Preston, known as the 'Guild Line'; to become involved with requirements for the Wyre Dock scheme and specifically its tramway element. An important additional element in their joint interest is the potential for utilising a rail link into Wyre Dock on tracks still in ownership of Network Rail and potentially available for a new role.
A move towards providing early covered facilities for some of the Trust's trams now at Wyre Dock involves taking over a historic industrial structure of the Fleetwood Ice Company in ownership of the J. Marr Group and now vacant. Discussions on this have taken place with the Company very recently with agreement in principle for an interim lease, that might lead to eventual assignment of the property within the groundbreaking (literally) scheme at Wyre Dock. Inspection of the structure has taken place with a view to transfer of some of the Trust's trams during 2018.
Both public and private sector organisations are contributing input and support for these visionary proposals now placed in the public domain this week, including Blackpool & The Fylde College, Fleetwood Town Council, Blackpool Council, Blackpool Transport Services Ltd., Associated British Ports, British China Business Council as well as a major Chinese company expressing interest in the Wyre Dock regeneration scheme overall. The creation of over three hundred new permanent jobs in a scheme with capital requirements of up to £180 Million is an important aspect of these proposals. Already in the past two weeks an announcement involving over half a billion pounds by a Chinese power generation group will lead to construction of a new power station on the nearby Hillhouses Enterprise Zone (formerly the ICI site). Equally, the importance of safeguarding and strengthening the existing businesses operating at Wyre Dock in fish processing and trading is a key priority in the development proposals.
Lessons from the success of the excellent and highly popular working tramway at the Beamish Museum; the role of vintage period trams in San Francisco (to Fishermans Wharf), as well as in Christchurch and Auckland are held as examples of integrating colourful old trams within wider leisure developments. The potential at Wyre Dock for a significant heritage transport display and working venue serving year round will allow for expansion in the Trust's own collection and restoration programme. The Trust will require additional working trams for an expected intensive service year round. How this is achieved remains to be seen. Individual corporate sponsorship is however likely to form the basis of funding both restoration and operation in this scheme.
Online updated details at Wyre Dock, branded 'Fleetwood Quays' will be available through the linked site at www.wyredock.com as well as through tramtalk covering the tram and transport aspects, all important for the business model and regeneration strategy. Phased extensions to the scheme could potentially see the tramway run further into Fleetwood on land owned by Associated British Ports as far as the Ferry, but this lies beyond immediate objectives of the current proposals for Wyre Dock.
Guests at the Launch on 15 November came away with a souvenir special edition of the FHLT 2018 Calendar printed by Hesketh Press, Fleetwood. A few copies are available online from the Tramtalk Shop.