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Words: Melanie Burton
Photography: Mick Fox
Featured in the June 2016 issue

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The Lincolnshire town of Grimsby may have received some unwanted national fame earlier this year when Sacha Baron Cohen produced his portrayal of the sea port in his new film of the same name.

But it united the community into putting the record straight about what Grimsby really does have to offer and, around the time the film was released in February, North East Lincolnshire Council ran a successful social media campaign spreading the word about what truly makes Grimsby Great.

It is known as the gateway to Europe and this is true of the area now more than ever, with Grimsby hosting the UK’s major car import terminal – handling 500,000 vehicles each year – and neighbouring Immingham featuring the UK’s largest port by tonnage, handling up to 55 million tonnes of cargo each year. Without the contribution of these important sites, the UK’s reliance on imports from the continent would cause shortages of energy and fuel.

Grimsby’s strategic location as a coastal town, with links to two major UK ports, have helped to secure an exciting future for the town as the UK’s gateway to green energy with the rise of offshore renewables.

By 2020, the world’s largest offshore wind farm will have been built by Dong Energy, just seventy-five miles off of Grimsby’s coastline.

A Council spokesman said: “This monumental project has the potential to create about 2,000 jobs, with the capability of securing up to 300 additional jobs both directly and indirectly.

“The 1.2 gigawatt (GW) wind farm will be able to provide power to more than one million UK homes. The site will also be the first wind farm in the world to provide over 1 GW of power.”

On top of this, Grimsby’s modern fish market, operated by Grimsby Fish Dock Enterprises Ltd, is recognised as one of the most important fish markets in Europe and handles some 20,000 tonnes of fresh fish each year.

The fishing industry is worth £2.5bn to North East Lincolnshire and the UK economy and of Grimsby’s sizeable business community, there are around 500 food-related companies based in the area and sixty per cent of all seafood eaten in the UK is processed in Grimsby and the Humber region.

Much of Grimsby’s infrastructure has changed over recent years to help promote businesses such as the renewables sector, which is beginning to grow in the area. The most recent of these changes includes the work on the £6.3 million A18/A180 link road, cutting the journey times to and from the UK’s largest port, and extra public transport stops being added to the borough’s busy Europarc Business Park.

Last year Grimsby was named in the Booking.com Foodie’s Guide to the Globe. The guide was compiled from more than 65 million guest reviews, and Grimsby’s fish and chips have joined those of only fourteen other locations across Europe, the Americas and Asia, including Napoli, Gouda, Tokyo and New Orleans.

Businesses across North East Lincolnshire are continuing to benefit from Local and Regional Growth Fund (RGF) investments of up to £200,000. These investment packages create job opportunities and stimulate ongoing growth in the region.

Seventy-five business grants have been awarded to date across NEL aiming to create 555 new jobs in the borough; 268 of these jobs have already been created.

Additionally, 211 engineering and construction apprenticeships have been created and thirty-five jobseekers financed through training and completed LGV driver qualifications, to help fill skills shortages on the south bank.

Local food health teams certify there are more than 700 exports of food to countries outside the EU per year.

If shopping is your forte, you need look no further than Grimsby’s Freshney Place Shopping Centre which is located close to Grimsby Town train station and the Riverhead Exchange transport hub. With more than eighty retailers, including several food outlets, there’s sure to be something for everyone. And that’s not all.

Work on the £4.2 million expansion of the centre is scheduled to begin this month, creating hundreds of jobs for the region.

More than a year of applications, meetings and negotiations followed the announcement of the plans in 2014, but now the work to extend the retail space of the centre by a massive 27,000 square feet will begin in the next few weeks. When complete, the work will more than triple the size of the town’s Primark store, from 10,500 sq ft to 34,200 sq ft of retail space across two floors.

Freshney Place Shopping Centre director, Amanda Austin said: “This has been a project long in development, but it was important that every detail was carefully considered and the plan absolutely right before the work could begin.

“It will lead to the creation of 250 jobs during the construction and redevelopment works and more than 120 retail jobs upon completion, and it will ensure that Grimsby remains the number one shopping destination for people across the region.”

The significant expansion will provide shoppers with access to even more of Primark’s range of latest trends in women’s, men’s and children’s fashion along with gifts, health and beauty, and homewares. As the work begins in earnest, the existing Primark store will relocate to its temporary home in a reserved unit opposite House of Fraser.

“We knew that Primark would be using this available unit as a stop-gap whilst the considerable works are being carried out,” said Amanda.

“These temporary alternate premises have been a part of the plan for some time, but we were unable to make this public knowledge until now.”

The redevelopment will see new retail space being created at the centre from the car park and storage areas, with work scheduled for completion in 2017. New fire escapes will also be installed, along with a new frontage onto Frederick Ward Way. Inside the centre, the existing toilets will be demolished and new modern facilities installed as part of the changes.

“We’re delighted to be able to announce that work on the £180,000 toilet modernisation will also begin shortly, bringing contemporary designed and energy efficient facilities to the centre. We will soon be offering improved, larger facilities and as ever, these will remain free of charge for use by our customers,” said Amanda.

Beginning in just a few weeks, the construction work will be carried out by HCM Projects, part of Yorkshire-based Harris Construction Management.

“We are all so excited that this expansion is about to begin. This huge development will help underline and strengthen Grimsby’s shopping credentials, and undoubtedly attract more shoppers not just to Freshney Place, but also the town,” said Amanda.

“This past year we have already seen many changes at the centre as part of our ongoing strategic plan for growth,” she added.

“From the expansion of Costa Coffee and JD, to the arrival of Lavitta and the opening of GoCruise – the winner of our apprentice retailer competition – it has been an exciting twelve months for us.

“We have also welcomed All Things Scented, who took a unit after building a successful business from their in-mall kiosk, as well as a mixture of High Street names and independent retailers such as American Candy, Love Aroma, Trespass, Love from Isla’s and Poundland.

“The expansion work is a significant investment in both Freshney Place and the town of Grimsby,” said Amanda. “This latest project marks the start of another exciting chapter in our history, and we’re tremendously excited for what the future holds.”

TOWN ON PARADE
2016 is an important year for Cleethorpes, Grimsby’s near neighbour, and this month will be the busiest of its year.

A seaside resort on the estuary of the Humber, Cleethorpes normally attracts thousands of holidaymakers and day-trippers alike throughout the summer months. But it is expecting a huge influx of extra visitors from all over the world this month, having been selected to host the national Armed Forces Day on 25th June.

The town will be buzzing with family fun and open-air performances from a variety of musicians and entertainers throughout the afternoon and early evening.

Exciting military demonstrations will include displays from the Red Arrows, who are based at nearby RAF Scampton, as well as demonstrations from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, parachute display teams from the Royal Navy, Army and RAF, and the Royal Navy Black Cats helicopter display flight.

Cleethorpes will also play host to an array of military vehicles for visitors to explore including the Sandown-class Mine Countermeasures Vessel HMS Blyth and the AS90 artillery tank and Warrior and Terrier armoured vehicles on the Boating Lake.

Armed Forces Day aims to raise awareness of, show support for and celebrate the contribution of servicemen and women, past and present. This year the event is expected to attract around 100,000 people.

Speaking after it was announced last year that Cleethorpes would host the national event, Councillor Ray Oxby, Leader of North East Lincolnshire Council, said: “Our local Armed Forces Day has previously attracted more than 60,000 people into the area for the weekend to recognise our past and serving military personnel and I’ve no doubt that figure will be dwarfed by hosting the national day.

“The fact that we’ve been chosen to host the event is a huge feather in our cap.”

While commonly referred to as a seaside resort, Cleethorpes actually sits on the Humber estuary and the sea is actually the mouth of the Humber which means that bathers are separated from the sea by several hundred yards of sand at low tide.

The seafront provides views of shipping traffic entering and leaving the Humber for the ports of Grimsby, Immingham, Hull and Goole. Cleethorpes lies on the Greenwich meridian and its average annual rainfall is amongst one of the lowest in the British Isles.

On top of the extra activities on offer for the Armed Forces Day, Cleethorpes has plenty of permanent attractions which pull in the crowds year in, year out.

As well as being home to the popular Pleasure Island Family Theme Park, Haven’s Thorpe Park holiday site and the award-winning Cleethorpes Light Coast Railway, it also has a Discovery Centre and boating lake and a refurbished pier which is now one of the top wedding, conference and dining venues in the area.

Cleethorpes Light Coast Railway has been delighting old and young alike for generations and was voted the No 1 tourist attraction in North East Lincolnshire by visitors on TripAdvisor.

Established in 1948, it is one of Britain’s oldest seaside miniature railways and covers a four-mile return journey along the Humberside coast.

It is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year with a full refurbishment and it also features the Signal Box Inn, which is thought to be the smallest pub on the planet.

The Discovery Centre is known as the jewel in the crown of the resort offering something for everyone, with stunning views, the ABP Humber observatory providing real time information on the shipping industry and free exhibitions and galleries showcasing local and national artwork. There is also a nature walk and an idyllic lake where you can feed the resident ducks and geese.

The Pier first opened on August Bank Holiday, 1873 after its build cost of £8,000 was financed by Manchester, Sheffield & Lincolnshire Railway (later LNER). Following additions, demolitions and fire damage, LNER sold The Pier to Cleethorpes Council in 1936.

Four years later, it was breached for defence purposes and the isolated seaward section was demolished after the war, leaving The Pier measuring 335 feet instead of its original 1,200 feet.

Between 1986 and 2010, The Pier changed ownership between public and private sector multiple times, with several failed attempts at modernisation to change the venue from its original leisure venue to a nightclub. In 2010, The Pier went into receivership and was closed.

To everyone’s great relief, in July 2013 The Pier reopened following the purchase of a one-year lease with an option to buy The Pier at the expiration of the lease.

Despite difficulties with funding, the purchase of the building continued with financial support from the Regional Growth Fund. Plans to carefully restore the building and revive its traditional beauty with added mod cons were met positively by local people and businesses.

The refurbishment is now complete and the doors reopened in August 2015 and was voted by members of the National Piers Society, as Pier of the Year 2016.

PLEASURE ISLAND
Visitors come from far and wide to Grimsby and Cleethorpes for a variety of reasons and it isn’t difficult to see why when you consider the attractions available to tourists.

One such tourist spot is the Pleasure Island Family Theme Park which, for nearly twenty-five years, has played an important part in the development of Cleethorpes as a visitor destination. It first opened its gates on 27th May 1993 and continues to help put the area on the tourism map.

“During the early years, the park attracted in excess of 250,000 visitors from all over the region,” said the park’s Melanie Wood.

“Today, due to increasingly wet and cold summers and the volatile economic conditions, the park brings fewer people into the resort. Nevertheless the 150,000 or so people who do visit the park each year means that Pleasure Island remains one of the biggest employers of seasonal staff in the area, employing approximately 185 staff from Easter until the end of the season in October.

“Pleasure Island helps to promote Cleethorpes as a great family destination. The local caravan parks, hotels and bed and breakfasts, and consequently the pubs and restaurants all benefit from its presence. 

“After almost a quarter of a century it feels like Pleasure Island is very much part of the Cleethorpes furniture.”

The Park stands on the site of the former Cleethorpes Zoo, which closed in 1977 and was owned and operated by Associated Pleasure Parks.

Now the park offers rides and attractions for all the family, from white knuckle rides to children’s rides, family shows to special events and the Furry Friends Farm incorporating a tractor ride and themed paddocks housing pigs, sheep, cows and pygmy goats.

Another attraction which helps bring the visitors to the area is Haven’s Thorpe Park Holiday Centre.

The park has had its restaurant and complex area refurbished during the winter months ready for the 2016 holiday season.

The newly refurbished restaurant is called ‘The Carousel’ and has the theme of a carousel running through it and, as a Haven Park, there are updated evening entertainment shows, alongside sports and leisure activities.

“Thorpe Park has its own expert Park Ranger offering a whole array of new ‘Nature Rockz’ activities,” explained a park spokesman.

“Families will now be able to show off their creativity with ‘Nature Bracelet Making’ and ‘Habitat Creations’ or discover the great outdoors with a ‘Pirates Treasure Hunt’.”

Thorpe Park is looking forward to a busy summer.

FISHING HERITAGE CENTRE
Because of its links to the fishing industry, Grimsby attracts visitors from all over the world and their main destination is the national Fishing Heritage Centre where the town’s trawling days are remembered through artefacts and permanent exhibits.

The fishing industry is worth £2.5bn to North East Lincolnshire and the UK economy and Grimsby’s modern fish market, operated by Grimsby Fish Dock Enterprises Ltd, is recognised as one of the most important fish markets in Europe handling some 20,000 tonnes of fresh fish each year.

So popular is the Fishing Heritage Centre, it is a top performing visitor attraction, according to TripAdvisor, and has also been awarded the Quality Rose Marque by VisitEngland.

North East Lincolnshire Council’s Dave Ormsby said: “It is still a fantastic and flourishing industry in the UK although vastly reduced. People come here from all over the world to learn about Grimsby fish and the fishing industry.

“There was such a large market for fish and that is why the heritage centre is so important.

“People are also tracing their family histories and with Grimsby being so large there are lots of people who had ancestors who lived here or worked on the docks and they want to come and learn about them.

“It is quite special and with thousands of people lost to the fishing industry we have a duty to help people learn about it and preserve the memories.”

The heritage centre is home to the Ross Tiger, a 1950s Grimsby trawler thought to be the oldest diesel side-trawler to survive in the UK. Ross Tiger was restored as a tribute to the trawlermen of the town by Great Grimsby Borough Council, opening to the public in 1992.

“If we are able to keep things like the Ross Tiger, it helps to tell the stories of those that were lost to the fishing industry well into the future.”

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