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Words: Melanie Burton
Photography: Lee Beel and Mick Fox
Featured in the February 2013 issue

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Sixty years ago communities up and down the east coast of Lincolnshire were reeling from one of the worst peace-time disasters Britain had ever seen.

A combination of a high spring tide and a European windstorm on 31st January 1953 caused a surge which swept down the coast and crashed through the sea defences, flooding more than 1,600 km of coastline and forcing 30,000 people out of their homes.

The county’s coastal towns such as Grimsby and Cleethorpes faced an uncertain future and years of rebuild and recovery. But it also marked the start of a new era of development and a very different way of life for the residents.

Even now, six decades later, work continues to improve the fortunes of the area both economically and visually and 2013 looks set to be another momentous year.

Though 2012 wasn’t without its challenges for Grimsby and Cleethorpes, much has been done to lay the foundations for future growth and investment in a district that has struggled to hold its head above the water during the recession.

Plans are in the pipeline for a major new arts and entertainment venue in the town’s Great Grimsby Ice Factory building. Moves are being made to boost the economy and create jobs, and some big name companies are looking to benefit from the renewable energy sector and the area’s prime coastal position.

North East Lincolnshire Council head of development, Jason Longhurst said, like the rest of the country, the area has faced some challenges but it has a coherent strategy to enable investment and achieve sustainable economic growth.

“Our key assets, strong sectors, and skilled workforce means we are ideally placed to profit from future developments and deliver our shared aim for sustainable economic growth,” he said.

“2012 was a fitting time to launch our innovative Development and Growth Plan, which sets out our ambitions to fully unlock the economic growth potential of North East Lincolnshire.

“And our successful Change Programme is supporting local people to find work and enabling businesses to create jobs through financial incentives. When there are job losses, we work closely with partners and the companies involved to help those affected and minimise the impact.”

The Development and Growth plan was launched at an event in Westminster that showcased what the area had to offer and the agendas of the two Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs).

“The event was also an opportunity to highlight our growth industries and joint approach to delivering economic wealth and job creation which is critical to the recovery of UK Plc,” said Mr Longhurst.

“The Port of Grimsby and Immingham is the UK’s biggest port by tonnage and is pivotal to the national economy. Port developments include Centrica’s new operations and maintenance base, fast-track planning consent for the Real Ventures biomass fired power station and plans for a new border inspection post.”

Regional Growth Funding of £30m has been secured for the Humber LEP to drive growth across the key sectors – ports and logistics, food manufacturing, energy and renewables, chemicals, housing and development, tourism and retail. There’s also £4.2m to improve transport and the town centre environment and £6.3m to build the A180/A18 link road.

“By working together with the private sector and the Humber and Greater Lincolnshire LEPs we can create the right environment to build on our assets, stimulate growth, create jobs and realise our future potential. This is already happening. Securing investment is key to bringing new jobs to the area,” said Mr Longhurst.

In May, Morrisons announced it was setting up a seafood processing site on Grimsby’s Europarc business innovation centre, and together with the town’s largest employers, Young’s Seafood Ltd, they have created around 580 fishing industry jobs over the past year.

Well-established speciality gases provider BOC also secured £18m from the Regional Growth Fund to expand its operation at Stallingborough.

“Looking to the future there is massive potential in North East Lincolnshire for the renewable energy sector,” said Mr Longhurst.

“We are in a prime position to become the leading operations and maintenance centre for offshore wind farms in the North Sea. This is already starting to happen with investment from Centrica, Siemens and RES.”

The future also looks bright for the area’s retail sector. A number of big name high street shops have opened in the town’s major shopping centre, Freshney Place, record sales have been reported by existing businesses and a new-look Freeman Street market has enhanced the street scene.

Freshney Place centre manager, Amanda Austen said the majority of its retailers had reported “sales increases of between 10 per cent and 30 per cent” on last year and several key tenants experienced their “busiest week of the festive period” just after Christmas.

“The Centre as a whole was up nearly 24 per cent on the week during the last week of December with 449,432 visitors through the doors. Despite high sales figures at the beginning of December, the real Christmas rush started late with shoppers not piling in until the second half of the month after they had been paid,” said Amanda.

“While we know that 2013 is going to be another difficult trading year for retailers we are hoping that the Christmas boost is the start of a return of consumer confidence.”

Next opened its new store at the shopping centre on 26th December attracting queues of sale shoppers through the doors and jewellers enjoyed a busy time too, with high-end brands such as Amanda Wakeley and Swarovski and Versace watches, priced from £500, selling well.

“Overall, December footfall was up 4.8 per cent on the previous year. Many retailers also reported robust sales in the post-Christmas sales, including The Entertainer and Mothercare, which said discounted pre-school books and nursery products were creating increased sales.

“Bhs reported that ladies sleepwear exceeded all expectations, allowing the store to sell its maximum stock level and its next hot seller was its menswear, which proved to be very successful,” added Amanda.

Work is scheduled to begin in spring on two key phases of a town redevelopment project, which will lead to a multi-million pound scheme to boost public transport in Grimsby and allow Freshney Place to expand to meet increased demand.

The Riverhead Square and Station Approach projects involve work to develop the town centre over the coming years to encourage investment, create new jobs and improve levels of accessibility.

Station Approach will be the first scheme on the ground and includes the development of a hub for cycling in North East Lincolnshire. The facility will offer cycle information, sales, maintenance and parking services as well as being a base for a mobile cycle hire business. It will be the focus for a range of other activities and events to get more people cycling.

Riverhead Square will see the relocation of the bus station to allow for the potential future expansion of Freshney Place, with bus stops being relocated along George Street, Victoria Street and Town Hall Street.

Improvements to the bus facilities will include the provision of electronic real time travel information at the bus stops; this will show a countdown to the actual time of arrival and departure.

An indoor waiting area with seating and a staffed information point, offering advice on all options for travel, will also be provided. It is hoped, in addition to transport improvements, both schemes will provide high quality paving and street furniture to boost the appearance and stimulate interest in the town centre.

Freeman Street market, which has been held on the same one-acre site since 1873, has undergone a five-year phase of change which has seen it refitted with modern purpose-built stalls.

The aisles have been widened for better access, a new floor and more suitable lighting helps to give the market a warm friendly atmosphere, while the new cafe and heated courtyard seating area make it an ideal place to rest your feet.

The market has seen the surrounding area transformed from lush pasture, where the original Freemen had rights to graze their animals, through the boom years of the fishing industry to the present day.

Throughout all this, Freeman Street Market has continued to be at the heart of the community with local businesses coming in from all over Lincolnshire to sell a variety of fresh produce, meats, fish and more.

Market development manager, Sean McGarel said: “The Freemen have spent £750,000 in refitting the old market and we are halfway through a development programme which will finish at the end of this year.

“We have taken down half the old structure units and rebuilt them into purpose-built retail units, but we have kept the old feel of the market.

“Some of the old stalls have been there since the Sixties and the market was overdue for a revamp. And despite all the work going on, occupancy levels have gone up by ninety per cent, bucking the high street trend.

“It’s a vast improvement and it is good to see the occupancy rates higher than expected. That’s the proof of the pudding.”

The work hasn’t finished yet. Phase one will be completed by Easter, so the whole west side of the market will have been upgraded, and Phase two, which is due to get underway around May or June, is scheduled to be finished by the end of the year.

“Things are looking up and we are very confident about 2013,” added Mr McGarel.

CLEETHORPES LIFEBOAT
2013 got off to a good start for the life-saving crews of Cleethorpes RNLI.

Just before Christmas, a brand new inshore lifeboat was delivered to the station, replacing the iconic D-618 Blue Peter VI which has been saving lives off the Cleethorpes coast for almost twenty years.

The new £40,000 D Class lifeboat D-757 has been donated to the RNLI by Ashley Burgess from North Yorkshire. Named James Burgess II, it is dedicated to the memory of his son, James.

Cleethorpes RNLI station chairman, Andrew Dalrymple welcomed the new boat on its launch into the River Humber and bid a fond farewell to the old lifeboat, which will now join the RNLI relief fleet.

The Blue Peter VI was one of seven lifeboats to be funded by the children’s television programme’s ‘Pieces of Eight’ appeal in 1994. In that time she has been launched 480 times and rescued hundreds of people.

“There has been a Blue Peter lifeboat on station here since 1994 when the Pieces of Eight appeal raised funds for lifeboats for the RNLI around the country,” he said.

“The outgoing lifeboat has been here since 2004 and in that time she has performed on average sixty service launches per year and rescued many people.

“The James Burgess II will continue its lifesaving work, manned by the dedicated volunteer crew.”

The RNLI is dependent upon donations and by having the boat purchased in one lump sum it frees up money for vital training and exercises to enhance the crew’s lifesaving skills.

The new lifeboat is ready for immediate service but a formal naming ceremony will be held in the spring.

Established in 1868, the Cleethorpes RNLI is a registered charity providing a 24-hour on-call lifeboat search and rescue service up to fifty miles out from the coast.

In the early days about twenty crew members were needed to row a wooden lifeboat, and often residents would be called upon to help launch it.

Now only four crew members go out on the lifeboat, and it is launched using a soft track machine which is a purpose-built, all-terrain vehicle.

CLEETHORPES RAILWAY ANNIVERSARY ON TRACK
It promises to be another terrific year of fun and celebrations for the residents of Cleethorpes. The Air Festival will be even bigger and better than last year, as will the Armed Forces Weekend. The carnival will return and the events arena is scheduled to be busy throughout the spring and summer months.

But the highlight of the town’s calendar is sure to be the 150th anniversary of Cleethorpes railway – the arrival of which made the town into what it is today. This historic milestone is to be marked with a special day of celebration on 6th April.

The event is one of seven projects being organised by the Friends of Cleethorpes Heritage, which only formed two years ago. It is designed to unite the whole community and ensure that the importance of the railway to the town’s history lives on long into the future.

Originally, Cleethorpes was made up of three small fishing villages (called thorpes) but once the railway had been constructed between the industrial towns of Yorkshire and the coast, it grew rapidly into a popular seaside and holiday resort.

Friends chairman, Ann Reavey said: “The railway is of great importance to the town and its heritage. It put us on the map, it made us a holiday destination and the railway company built the pier and the promenade and made Cleethorpes what it is today.

“We haven’t got a museum in Cleethorpes but there is so much heritage in the town, it is important that we keep it to the fore.”

The celebration will take place in the Number 1 Refreshment Rooms pub on Cleethorpes station and will include marquees, entertainment and memorabilia, and if the Friends’ Heritage Lottery Grant is successful, a working replica of the famous Stephenson’s Rocket will take pride of place for people to look around.

“It is going to be a really big event with the emphasis on fun, but the icing on the cake would have to be the Rocket here,” said Mrs Reavey.

The anniversary will also be marked with a special memorial plaque which will be displayed at the station to welcome visitors to the town.

The Friends formed in 2010 and became a registered charity last year, being fortunate enough to be granted an Awards for All grant of nearly £9,000 to help bring history to life for the town’s residents.

Other events being organised under the Awards for All grant this year include a Lord Burgh’s Retinue Re-enactment Group living history weekend, a talk by television presenter Nick Barrett, from the programme Who Do You Think You Are? and a Heritage Open Day focusing on ‘Ghosts of Our Past’ – the heritage that has been lost in Cleethorpes and what has been gained.

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