Bringing new life using old assets to North West coastal communities

The key to the successful regeneration of maritime areas is to use their heritage to reimagine new economies, according to those delivering major transformational coastal schemes in the North West.

It is what is happening to bring economic development to Fleetwood, Birkenhead and Ellesmere Port delegates heard at an event at MIPIM 2019.

Richard Mawdsley, development director at Peel’s £4.5bn Wirral Waters project; Michael Cosser, partner at renowned architects Brock Carmichael, leading on Fleetwood Quays regeneration; and Lisa Harris, director of Place Strategies at Cheshire West and Chester Council (CWAC)who is spearheading Ellesmere Port’s economic re-emergence met to discuss place making in harder to regenerate areas.

In January this year proposals aimed at boosting Fleetwood’s economy and profile were unveiled with Wyre Dock Development Ltd leading on the redevelopment and regeneration of the historic Wyre Dock in Fleetwood.

Within the proposals for the mixed-use site are a hotel, restaurant, botanical-themed visitor attraction, transport and Fleetwood themed heritage centre, an exhibition hall, retail, leisure and residential property, as well as a purpose-built hub for the Town’s important fish-trading sector.

Michael Cosser, architects on the scheme, said: “Right along the North West coast there are some really exciting projects which show that there is life beyond our big cities. We’ve seen the positive effect projects of scale can have on a coastline and on post-industrial docklands.

“At Fleetwood Quays the vision is to establish a cluster of leisure and heritage attractions that together with hotels, bars, and restaurants on the quaysides will grow and service the visitor economy.

“Fleetwood’s fishing industry heritage as well as the role of trams, trains and trawlers will be brought to life within the historic Ice Factory. The town’s international links to Fleetwood Pennsylvania and the significance of the Fleetwood name to the Cadillac brand will also be explained.’

“Fleetwood Quays will provide plenty of opportunities for dockside living. There is also an ambition to have some floating hotel rooms in Wyre Dock.

“New facilities for the important fish processing industry will be created on the adjacent Fish Park development. It is also envisaged that high quality fish and seafood restaurants will be encouraged within Fleetwood Quays as well as others that can showcase the best of Lancashire producers.”

Richard Mawdsley said that the main challenge faced in developing historic maritime communities is the need to fundamentally transform the use of an area, in Peel’s case, Wirral Waters: “We must create a new desirable place that benefits all communities, including the surrounding neighbourhoods – a place where people really want to work, live and visit.

“This means ensuring all developments, industrial, commercial and residential, are of such high quality they can compete not just regionally, but on a world stage. We also need to fix the economy by developing job and training opportunities in key sectors, including the maritime sector that regionally has several key assets including The Port of Liverpool.

“We are aiming to transform Wirral into a maritime entrepreneurial hub through, among other projects, the development of the Maritime Knowledge Hub – an international centre of excellence within the marine and maritime sectors. This is an industry led project being driven forward by Mersey Maritime and will include skills and office space for maritime organisations, offshore survival training, a marine simulation centre and university accommodation.

“By creating a place people really want to live and work in, while at the same time clustering commercial, industrial and academic organisations to create jobs in the maritime sector, Wirral Waters will become an internationally recognised destination.

“All of this requires true collaboration between the private and public sectors; investing in things like transport connectivity to support the regeneration of the area, and making sure local communities really benefit.”

Lisa Harris from CWAC said that the council is already seeing significant economic growth through a number of major projects in Ellesmere Port: “Ellesmere Port holds a unique position because it looks in several directions sitting at the heart of the Mersey Dee area, which is a city region in all but name with an economy of more than £22bn GVA. We have major ambitions to build on our successful economic base focusing on manufacturing, logistics and distribution and with a unique specialism in energy and environment.

“We have momentum here and a good track record that makes us very attractive to investors as well as ready-to-use sites of different sizes in enterprise zones with a green energy network and fellow tenants of a very high calibre.

“We are aware that we are part of bigger strategic aspirations for growth across the wider sub-region of Cheshire and Warrington, North Wales and Liverpool City Region and it’s that partnership working with a joined up vision supported by a robust infrastructure investment plan that is at the heart of our approach. We will not maximise our ambitions if we consider ourselves in isolation and don’t play to our traditional strengths.”

She also detailed the ways investors could be part of the area’s on-going regeneration with Thornton Science Park looking for an investment partner and with opportunities at other schemes including Aviator Park North Road; Port Cheshire and Ellesmere Port Docks; Helix Business Park; and the council-owned waterfront on the Manchester Ship Canal next to the National Waterways Museum

Kevin Riley, director at WSP, event sponsors, was the chair at the Invest West event in the Lancashire Apartment on the final day of MIPIM.