Memorandum by Wyre Borough Council (CT
1. Wyre Borough Council would wish to draw
the Committee's attention to:
1. The need to recognize the unique challenges
for coastal resorts as distinct from urban centres.
2. The need to have an understanding of the
grass-roots impact of regional priorities, in arresting further
decline and redressing imbalances, together with the need to provide
integrated solutions to such issues.
3. A requirement for packaged support availability
to recognize the need for infrastructure measures, that provide
the economic catalysts to sustainable economic growth.
4. The need to develop and provide sub-regional
investment policies, which transcend traditional boundaries, and
create joint working best practice.
5. The need to gear any measures to practical
delivery, and, where necessary, provide "hot spot" support.
2.1 Wyre Borough Council is a Lancashire
district authority covering urban and rural settlements, including
the coastal towns of Cleveleys and Fleetwood. This submission's
focus is Fleetwood.
3.1 Fleetwood is a peninsular town located
on the Fylde Coast. It has a population of 26,882 (source ONS,
2006) with three out of five of its wards falling into the 5%
to 10% most deprived wards in England, based on the Index of Multiple
Deprivation. This evidences the progressive deterioration in the
socio-economic structure of Fleetwood, as only one ward (Pharos)
was previously within the 10% category.
4.1 Unemployment levels in Fleetwood stand
at an average of 3.1%, over the five wards, rising to 4.3% in
the Pharos Ward, compared to the district average of 1.5% of the
total working age population (source ONS, January, 2006). These
figures peak for males in the Pharos ward, at 6.4%. There are
5.2%, 4.8%, 4.7% and 3.0% male unemployment levels in the adjacent
four wards. Female unemployment is significantly higher also in
the five Fleetwood wards.
5.1 The main stock of housing in the urban
core wards, where deprivation is of great concern, has remained
at basic amenity standard for many years, and although not fundamentally
unsound or incapable of revitalization, there is a lack of prosperity
to address the problems, and seek to improve neighborhood standards.
5.2 There has been no major programme of
house building, adding to or upgrading quality, for many years.
Much of the new build is sporadic, as is the improvement of older
5.3 Some premises have been developed for
transient use and multiple-occupation, but not to the same extent
as major resort towns.
6.1 Levels of attainment for school leavers
are below average at Fleetwood High School, the only state sector
school in the town, with 27% of pupils achieving A* to C GCSE
grades, by comparison with the national average of 53.7%, and
the local education authority average of 53.8%. The attainment
in A* to G grades was equally well below the national and LEA
averages. (source DfES league tables 2005)
7. FURTHER EDUCATION
7.1 Such levels of attainment are also reflected
in the accessibility to further education and employment. Of 258
school leavers in 2004, 143 (55.4%) went into further education,
mainly to redress the shortfall in qualifications gained at high
school level, whilst a minority, 24 (9.3%) went into any form
of employment with associated vocational training. Some 54 (20.9%)
entered worklessness, adding to the statistics. (source Careerlink
8. SKILLS AND
8.1 The workforce within Fleetwood is both
adaptable and versatile.
8.2 Former occupations such as fishing and
the chemicals industry having now disappeared, caused a considerable
problem in re-skilling into other industries at craft and semi-skilled
levels. This left an unskilled and labour-only workforce to fend
for itself. The problem has not yet been totally eradicated.
8.3 Some unemployment has been absorbed
by the building and construction industry, although there is an
emerging demand for this training to be re-instituted. Many redundancies
gave opportunity to those displaced to enter into self-employment,
as a result of which, the Wyre district boasts a self-employed
sector of some 8,500.
9.1 Benefit dependency in Wyre district
amounted to some £31 million in 2004 with the largest proportion
attributed to worklessness and long-term disablement benefit payments
in Fleetwood wards (source Jobcentre Plus)
10. CRIME AND
10.1 Pharos ward has a considerable crime
and disorder problem, (1,278 crimes) mainly centered around the
15 to 19 year old age group, and predominantly male. Of these
87% was re-offending activity, and 25.9% of which was committed
by the unemployed. (source Lancashire Constabulary 2004)
11.1 Transport links into Fleetwood are
problematic. The A585 link into the motorway network (M55Preston
to Blackpool) is poor and the proposed new link to the motorway
has not been recognized as a regional priority. There is no rail
link into Fleetwood, having been cut as part of the 1960's Beeching
Review. Investment is required to upgrade the Blackpool tramway,
and extend this into a light railway proposal which could serve
the Fleetwood peninsular and on into the hinterland, where there
is limited rural service. The problems associated with the A585
and accessibility to the motorway network is cited by local businesses
as the single most inhibiting factor for development in Fleetwood.
12.1 Industrial and commercial development
has been at a standstill for some 10 to 15 years, in Fleetwood.
The town has a substantial number of mid-band SME companies, but
no employer with a profile beyond the level of 200 employees.
Companies have not grown in size or stature, nor have there been
any major developments in the fields of new technologies or non-traditional
12.2 The stock of commercial property is
generally in decline, with little evidence of investment in renewal
or growth. Many properties and sites have remained unoccupied
for periods in excess of 3 years, and as a consequence their condition
has deteriorated, making them unattractive to potential investors.
13.1 A similar situation applies to retail
property, with much of the worn-out Victorian stock having seen
poor quality multiple restorations, wearing out the structures
to a point where major restoration/regeneration would be necessary
to attract interest, or areas would be considered as clearance
standard, to afford future opportunity.
14. Port Economy
14.1 Fleetwood has a strong tradition as
a fishing port. There has however been a sharp reduction in the
number of fishing vessels operating out of Fleetwood, with approximately
18 as of October 2004. The industry that once provided employment
for 9000 people now employs, directly and indirectly about 1000.
Recognising this, the focus of the Fleetwood fishing industry
has shifted from the catching sector to the processing sector.
Whilst independent studies (Poseidon 2002? commissioned by the
NWRA and more recently the Maritime Study commissioned by the
NWDA) have identified strong growth potential within the fish-processing
sector, sustainability continues to be of concern. A further study,
commissioned by the NWDA and the local industry and prompted by
the Maritime Strategy is currently underway.
14.2 It has the principal objective of preparing
an option analysis of the maintenance and development of the Fleetwood
fish-processing sector. The draft report has already identified
that the potential for development in Fleetwood cannot be considered
in isolation from the problems and opportunities facing the remainder
of the British fishing industry.
14.3 It identifies key drivers for change
including the importance of supermarkets in the distribution of
fish and fish products, an inclination towards traceability of
fish products, market trends, the need for product differentiation
and the increasing importance of regional foods. The draft report
asserts that given favorable circumstances, the Fleetwood fish
processors can use these drivers in rejuvenating the sector on
the basis of their traditional activity and experience in the
14.4 Within a regional context, however
fishing is deemed of limited importance. This is reflected in
the Regional Economic Strategy for the North West, which does
not refer to the sector: an approach that may not be consistent
with other Regional Economic Strategies. Fishing is of considerable
importance in terms of local economies, and a healthy fish-processing
sector can generate increased economic benefits with limited public
expenditure and this is important where alternative economic opportunities
14.5 Investment is required in the infrastructure
and to support cluster development. At this time, there is concern
that the lack of recognition for the industry within the RES and
therefore, subsequently, the lack of intervention may prohibit
the delivery of effective solutions for the industry. Not only
would this hamper the growth potential of the industry, but also
without intervention the industry is unlikely to be sustainable.
14.6 With regard to other port activities,
it is essentially a Ro-Ro ferry port for the Irish market, handling
accompanied and unaccompanied freight. It has restricted maritime
access and a report, commissioned by the NWDA, NW Ports Economic
Trends and Land Use Study has questioned the long-term viability
of the port for commercial traffic, with a future focus on leisure
activities. (The port does have a successful marina operation,
which is the only facility on this reach of the coast, between
north Cumbria and north Wales.)
14.7 Whilst the issue of viability is disputed
by the port owners and Stena-Line who operate a successful service
ferry service, the potential impact on the local economy if the
assumptions are correct is of concern. Within the RES, Fleetwood
is not identified as a key port. The RES has identified Liverpool
and Heysham docks for significant investment, direct competitors
of the Fleetwood port. Again, as with the fishing industry, the
concern is that the lack of a coordinated approach to intervention
in Fleetwood will not only hinder growth, but will actually decimate
the local economy even further.
15.1 Historically, the second major employer
in Fleetwood was the chemical sector. However, the closure of
ICI (1999) which at its height employed 4,500 people (source ICI)
has resulted in the loss of several million pounds spending power
from the local economy. The ICI site transferred to NPL Estates
and it is probably the largest unrecognized strategic site in
the north west either through the regional spatial strategy or
the Regional Economic Strategy.
15.2 As a brownfield site in need of remediation
due to its use as a chemical complex, it has a unique ability
to accommodate chemicals investment in the northern part of the
north west. Indeed, the chemical companies on the site are already
committed to investing up to £45 million over the next three
years. Companies are considering further phases of investment
but will require recognition of the site at a regional level and
an acceptance that packaged support measures will be available.
16.1 Fleetwood is unlike many other coastal
resorts in so far as its heritage is as much as a fishing town
than as a resort. The impact of the changes in the tourism market
and leisure expectations has however impacted on Fleetwood. Outward
signs of this decline are in the town centre where the loss of
visitor expenditure and competition from out of town facilities,
poor road and rail access has led to a decline in the quality
of the shopping "offer" and the lack of investment to
plough back into the improvement of the physical infrastructure
16.2 Fleetwood does attract visitors however,
with attractors including large static caravan sites, Fleetwood
Market, Fleetwood Museum etc A report produced on behalf of the
NWDAA New Vision for Coastal Resorts (2003) confirmed Fleetwood,
despite changes in the tourism market, as still having power as
a destination. As such it proposed that Fleetwood develop its
brand as a "UK Capital of Value".
16.3 The report concluded that to achieve
the brand destination vision, including up- lifting the town centre,
significant public sector-led investment was required in the public
realm working in conjunction with private developers to implement
17.1 Fleetwood has derived its funding in
a limited form from:
Single Regeneration Budget.
European Support for the Fishing
Fleetwood benefited from funding through the
Single Regeneration Budget Round 3, between 1997 and 2004, of
£3.1million. An evaluation of the scheme concluded that whilst
the scheme successfully delivered its outputs and leveraged some
£27 million in benefits to Fleetwood, in cash and in kind,
the scheme was not of significant enough size to trigger associated
private sector investments, outside the realm of community development.
Since the completion of this scheme there has been no further
access to sources of co-ordinated intervention
17.2 Whilst Objective 2 monies have been
directed towards Fleetwood, the specific schemes have all been
developed in Pharos ward, and should properly be regarded as complementary
activity, rather than structurally beneficial.
17.3 Support ids available to the fishing
industry through the Marine Fisheries Agency. Whilst some community
benefit has been derived from this funding source, it does not
provide the significant infrastructure investment to make a lasting
18.1 There is potential for growth in Fleetwood,
so far as land and property are concerned. Some 11 hectares of
land is available for redevelopment on the Copse Road industrial
estate, mainly covered in run-down commercial buildings and factory
units, which have seen better days. The Wyre Dock is suitable
for mixed development, including residential, and adds a further
15.4 hectares, and other miscellaneous sites add a further 2.4
hectares (source Wyre Local Plan 2001016).
18.2 The difficulty in advocating development
in Fleetwood is the accessibility to the road and rail network.
New and incoming businesses require good access if there is a
need for goods to be moved from the point of manufacture to a
purchaser destination, without undue delay and added cost. The
lack of these basic infrastructure standards means that Fleetwood
is not a recognized destination for business. Creating the route
to business is a key activity, but one without a solution, unless
there is recognition within the RES and the Regional Transport
Policy. This has not been forthcoming, nor is there any prospect
of this happening within current programmes.
18.3 Another key factor, allied to the availability
of land is brownfield site remediation, to restock Fleetwood with
a cost-effective alternative for companies to consider against
the stock of available land elsewhere. The RES considers only
sites of regional strategic importance in the allocation of funding
and remedial priority. This policy may be appropriate to large
urban areas where employment opportunities have been wiped away,
and there is a need to revitalize the potential for development
and create new jobs.
18.4 It is equally suited to addressing
the problems of smaller areas however, where the long-term effects
of worklessness and deprivation have become deep-rooted, and are
now becoming ingrained in the socio-economic fabric of the community.
18.5 Whilst there is no pressure placed
on the availability of land in Fleetwood, the same is not true
in other parts of the district. The two market towns of Poulton-le-Fylde
and Garstang, where market town initiative work programmes are
being undertaken, in association with the NWDA, are being put
under pressure for additional land allocations for industrial/commercial
18.6 These would most likely be green field
sites, if they were available, rather than considering the possibility
of locations in Fleetwood, where brownfield opportunities are
plentiful. The ability to offer incentives to take up this type
of land, linked to confirmed long-term use for commercial activity,
would provide Wyre with a means of pump-priming new development.
19.1 As part of the SRB programme, funding
sources including european, delivered improvements to the main
retail area, Lord Street, with the purpose of triggering private
sector enhancement and providing the lead to sustainable development.
A shop front improvement scheme was introduced to act as the catalyst
in circumstances where major renewal could not be expected.
19.2 The two elements achieved limited success,
mainly due to the economic situation of owners and tenants. It
was impossible to create further packages of support, from the
limited funding available, although it was evidenced, from the
number of enquiries made to the Regeneration Partnership, that
a grants and loans scheme could have had a high rate of success
in improving the overall retail "offer".
19.3 Recent investment by Asda, in a town
centre supermarket, may re-formulate retail viewpoints along the
single-street high street, but this would require a massive step
change. The Freeport Shopping Centre, at the edge of the town,
the new Asda store and the Council's Traditional Market, make
significant contributions to the retail economy. There are, perhaps
six other stores that maintain and add to an economic dynamic
for the town
19.4 A recent survey of planning use of
the main retail area shows that some 70% of properties are in
A1 and A2 retail use, but that the quality of the businesses is
generally poor, with over 80% committed to the sale of cut-price
goods or "cheap and cheerful" tourist/visitor goods.
There has been some speculation that without a step change being
triggered in the retail offer, there will be no businesses surviving
in middle to high-end retailing, in the next three to five years.
19.5 In all other aspects, businesses are
at survival levels.