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Words: Melanie Burton
Photography: Mick Fox
Featured in the June 2018 issue

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Regeneration remains the key to ensuring that the north east Lincolnshire town can look forward to a thriving future while maintaining its links to Britain’s past, writes Melanie Burton.

A series of major proposals have been announced aimed at transforming key parts of the town and breathing new life into historic buildings to attract more visitors, bigger investment and new jobs.

Just before the New Year, Grimsby was awarded Heritage Action Zone status to revive its historic docks and town centre. The scheme will be run by North East Lincolnshire Council and Historic England with support from Associated British Ports. Over the next five years it will bring neglected buildings back into use for employment and help stimulate a revival of the town’s economy.

It is hoped the historic dock buildings, former smokehouses, factories and shops will receive a new lease of life, more jobs will be on offer and interest in the town’s important heritage will increase.

The programme also aims to reconnect the town centre with the port by promoting the re-use of historic buildings along Alexandra Docks including Victoria Mills, which underwent more than £2 million of urgent repairs. The building is now in public ownership and is set to make its own contribution to regeneration plans.

John Glen, minister for arts, heritage and tourism said: “Our heritage not only tells the story of our past. It creates great places to live, work and visit. The Heritage Action Zone scheme will make the most out of Grimsby’s historic environment to kick-start regeneration, increase tourism and boost investment.”

Councillor Peter Wheatley, portfolio holder for regeneration at NE Lincs Council, said: “Grimsby is changing with the new industries we are seeing in the town and pulling all the strands of work together will help to transform the economic outlook for the town.”

The five-year scheme is a key ingredient of the Greater Grimsby Town Deal, which aims to revive the town’s economy.

It is estimated that the town deal bid for £36.9 million from the Treasury could have a big impact on the local economy to the value of £216 million, creating 7,700 new homes and 5,000 extra jobs.

The plans would also help create a strong waterfront culture with the historic Kasbah area on Grimsby Docks, which has been declared a conservation site of significant interest by Historic England.

One key project is the proposed new leisure development which is to be built as an extension to the ever popular Freshney Place Shopping Centre in Grimsby’s Riverhead area which will be regenerated by the council. The project recently received detailed planning consent for the new complex offering a nine-screen cinema and seven restaurants, bringing a big boost to the town’s night-time economy.

“This is an exciting time for Freshney Place,” said development director, Maurice Fitzgerald on behalf of the centre owners.

“The proposed new £20 million scheme is an extension to the existing shopping centre, and will be known as Freshney Place Riverhead. The development will house a brand new cinema, as well as seven new restaurant units which will be home to a host of leading national operators new to Grimsby.”

The development will also help create around 350 construction jobs and a further 130 long-term roles. The capital investment, which includes tenants fit outs, will be between £18 million and £20 million.

“The Cineworld letting as an anchor will prove the spark for other new operators for this attractive new venue with a substantial catchment population,” said Mr Fitzgerald.

Councillor Peter Wheatley, North East Lincolnshire Council’s cabinet member for regeneration, said it was a vital building block in the development of the town centre.

“We’re committed to regenerating the town centre and having a prestigious project like this, which we’re confident will bring people back into the area, is further evidence that North East Lincolnshire is very much open for business.’’

Grimsby’s near neighbour Cleethorpes is also enjoying a period of regeneration with a number of revitalisation schemes taking place.

A £7.2 million programme of works for the area includes exciting changes to the resort in terms of improvements to the environment, work to the town centre streets, enhancements to historic buildings, and new events for the area were showcased at a recent launch event.

The funding has come from a range of sources including CoastNEL, a local partnership between the council, businesses, arts, heritage and tourism groups, which earlier in the year was awarded £3.8 million from the Coastal Communities Fund (CCF).

The CCF will cover a wide range of projects to enhance the resort and its programme of events includes £3.3 million earmarked to improve the public realm and introduce public art at key arrival sites, the promenades and in the historic town centre streets.

There is £332, 000 available to be put towards marketing and events with the aim of bringing new visitors to the area and helping to extend the traditional tourist season and there are also plans to transform a beachfront kiosk into an eye-catching entertainment venue.

Councillor Patrick also explained how work over the next few years will further enhance Cleethorpes.

“Exciting times are ahead for North East Lincolnshire and no more so than for Cleethorpes, which is the ‘jewel in the crown’ in terms of our local tourism offer,” he said.

“The resort’s potential is significant and things are moving in the right direction. Visitor numbers to North East Lincolnshire have topped 10 million a year for the first time ever.

“The economic impact of tourism in North East Lincolnshire has seen a significant increase – up by more than £23 million over the previous year to a record high of £560 million.

“Tourism is a hugely important sector for us. With the work we’re doing in partnership with businesses and community groups and the major funding boosts announced last year, we’re doing all we can to make sure this trend carries on.

“However, we recognise that we still have work to do in terms of extending the season, and creating more year-round tourism opportunities and this is something we’re working on as part of these projects.”

Other smaller projects are also playing their part in improving the visitor experience and Grimsby Fishing Heritage Centre is no exception. Its latest initiative is to hook a ‘fisherman’s friend’ to help its tourism drive.

The idea is that the new recruit will be part of a team responsible for helping the attraction to bring the historic trawler Ross Tiger to life for visitors.

Trawler guides work with the general public, school groups and special events at the centre to help share the heritage of Great Grimsby during the town’s period as the world’s premier fishing port.

The Heritage Centre opened in 1991 and allows visitors to discover life for British trawlermen in a job described as ‘the most dangerous peacetime occupation in the UK’.

It aims to take people back sixty years to discover what life was like for the trawlermen and their families, both at home and at sea.

The Ross Tiger is a traditional side-winder fishing trawler that was converted into a museum ship in 1992.

GRIMSBY ICE RINK
Diverse attractions always help bring in new people to the area, which in turn helps increase footfall and boost the local economy – they can also help make the town a more interesting place to live.

Ice rinks are proving highly popular with the public and Grimsby can boast its own.

Since last August, it has gone from strength to strength and the group behind its success has been unveiled as the first recipients of the council’s new Stronger Communities Fund which offers community groups and organisations the chance to bid for up to £10,000.

The funding will be used to cover some of the costs of installing a fire resistant barrier on the first floor of the building, meeting one of the stipulations of the original lease.

Councillor Matthew Patrick, portfolio holder for finance, community assets, governance and tourism, said: “I was very impressed with the hard work and determination of the group when it originally secured the ice rink last August.

“Since then, the group has begun to work on making the ice rink the huge success that it can be, and hopefully this funding will help make that a reality.

“The Stronger Communities Fund has really come into its own here, and the Ice Rink is a very deserving recipient. It offers a huge range of sports for people across the borough and has worked tremendously hard.”

Joanne Routh, chair of the board of directors at Grimsby Ice Rink, said: “We’ve been very busy over the last few months. We have three adult hockey teams that use the ice rink, along with a great big youth hockey club which is one of the oldest in the UK.

“Alongside that we have a figure skating academy, and plenty of regular users.”

The group put together a proposal to take over the running of the ice rink following the council’s decision to close it in December 2016. Its determination led to North East Lincolnshire Council undertaking a Community Asset Transfer after positive reactions to the proposal.

The group is hoping to be able to fund some overdue repairs and ambitious renovations in a bid to take the ice rink to the next level.

The rink at Grimsby Leisure Centre has been open since 1975 and over the years, numerous national level athletes who have competed in all levels of competition have learnt their trade there.

CLEETHORPES EVENTS
It is not just Grimsby that is benefiting from a refocus on regeneration works.

As part of the Coastal Communities Fund over the next two years, grants totalling £170,000 have been made available to major event organisers and businesses, together with community and voluntary groups, to put on events and activities in the Cleethorpes area to attract more footfall into the town.

One such event is the Armed Forces Day which attracts thousands of visitors to the area every year.

A grant from the CoastalEXPERIENCE fund has been made to the Armed Forces Major Events Team to enhance the Armed Forces weekend taking place at the end of June this year, which sees the Royal Air Force celebrating the 100th anniversary of its formation as the first independent air force in the world.

Alex Baxter from the Armed Forces Major Events Team said: “On previous Armed Forces Days, we have had some flying activity, and this has always been a major attraction for visitors.

“It’s the element that receives the most enquiries on the build-up, and the element that is photographed most over the weekend. It’s also an element that allows us to successfully promote the Armed Forces weekend, and also is used in overall promotion of the resort.

“Lincolnshire is considered the spiritual home of military aviation and as such should be a key part of the celebrations. To mark this, we want to deliver a first class airshow event off the coast of Cleethorpes.

“We already have major sponsorship in place, but this fund will allow us to deliver a great experience for visitors and residents, and help cement an airshow in the future calendar of events for the resort.”

A grant from the CoastalBUSINESS fund has also been awarded to Ebb & Flo, a local business on North Promenade in Cleethorpes, for a new event called ‘The Endless Summer’.

This new event will help promote the North Promenade’s water sports scene/beach cleaning and provide plastic pollution education.

It will allow the general public to take part in an SUP (stand-up paddleboard) and Kayaking taster experience and will also aim to provide a general awareness of beach cleaning and plastic pollution from within a plastic recycling facility.

A spokesman from Ebb & Flo, said: “The addition of kayaking is a new development to Ebb & Flo which currently offers SUP hire and lessons. Ebb & Flo is the only independent water sports business in town which makes the event exclusive and exciting.

“We hope the exclusivity of the event will further increase the footfall meaning more people will pass by local businesses situated on the North Prom which in recent history has been in decline.

“Our event will be dedicated to promoting extending the beach season (hence endless summer) encouraging people to stay in town longer which in turn means businesses such as hotels, B&Bs, cafes and restaurants could benefit from additional trade.

“In addition to promoting positive physical and mental wellbeing the event will aim to promote beach care, environmental awareness and inspiring change. We really want to show people what is right on our doorstep and to use and look after it even more.”

Councillor Matt Patrick, North East Lincolnshire Council’s portfolio holder for tourism, said: “This is a great way of encouraging more people to visit Cleethorpes and see the changes that will be happening in and around the resort.

“Working with partners such as CoastNEL, we have been looking at ways of extending the season and bringing visitors into the resort all year round, this is the first stage in that process.”

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