Construction starts on multi-million pound Eastbourne Fishing Quay
Work is underway on a new fishing quay at Sovereign Harbour – and this week the project was given a £1 million cash boost which will see all three phases become a reality.
A virtual breaking ground ceremony was held on Monday (August 24) marking the start of the construction of the new facility which will eventually see a fish processing plant selling fresh fish to the public, net stores and a Visitors’ Centre – all built on the quayside close to the Harvester.
The project is the brainchild of Eastbourne fisherman Graham Doswell, whose family has been fishing off the town’s coast for three generations, and the Eastbourne Fishermen’s Community Interest Company (CIC) set up to build the development which they say will be at the heart of the community as well as a major boost to the local fishing industry and economy.
The ceremony, hosted by Eastbourne-based chartered surveyors and project managers Gradient Consultants, was attended by dignitaries from Eastbourne and beyond who have provided financial and practical support for the projec.
And it was exclusively revealed the South East Local Enterprise Partnership has given the scheme a further grant of £1.08 million.
SELEP chairman Christian Brodie said, “Through our Growing Places Fund and our Local Growth Fund programmes, the South East LEP is delighted to be investing £2.23 million in the development of the Eastbourne Fishing Quay project. This investment includes the £1 million allocation from the Local Growth Fund which we were pleased to confirm this week.
“This capital will help to improve the safety and productivity of the site and will create a new visitor centre that will draw an additional 3,200 visitors to the SELEP region each year. The Fishing Quay will undoubtably become a hive of activity to support both education and the fishing industry.
“We have been focusing closely on helping those industries and areas that have been hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, including tourism and our coastal towns. This project will play a key role in bolstering Eastbourne’s local economy, as well as strengthening the sense of community - which is now more vital than ever to help get the country back on its feet.”
Phase 1 of the project is underway, building a fish processing plant with an ice making facility and shop selling directly to customers. This will allow the fishermen to get more value from the catch they land by processing it themselves. Currently they have to sell ‘raw’ catch to wholesalers, who then process it and sell it on for much higher prices.
Phase 2 will see the building of net stores, which will help prevent damage and allow the fleet to carry out repairs on site. A Visitors’ Centre will be built in phase 3 showcasing the history of the fleet and providing educational opportunities for local schools and groups.
East Sussex County Council backed the fishermen to develop their application for funding and it was supported by Team East Sussex, the local federated board of the South East LEP.
The council’s lead member for economy Rupert Simmons said, “This initiative will provide a huge boost to the local fishing industry and economy and we are delighted the next stages of the scheme are about to proceed.
“East Sussex County Council has provided £240,000 of grants and loans from our East Sussex Invest funding to the fishermen, but we’ve also helped them to access £1.15m of Growing Places funding from the South East Local Enterprise Partnership. Next year the coastal waters will come under UK control and its own policies. It could not be a better time for this investment.”
Eastbourne Borough Council leader David Tutt has also backed the scheme.
He said, “This very welcome contribution of EU money will help ensure this long-awaited project becomes a reality. I look forward to seeing the scheme develop and when complete, will provide a multi-purpose destination to benefit Eastbourne’s fishing industry.”
Eastbourne fisherman, Graham Doswell, whose has led the project and whose family has fished along the Sussex coast for three generations, said, “As time passed it seemed that the likelihood of a fishing quay being developed for the fleet grew less likely and at one point in 2013, we were asked to clear the site for housing development. This resulted in the formation of the Community Interest Company in order that we could look for funding.
“We have been so fortunate to have had such a great bunch of people that have made this all possible and without their help this fantastic project would have not reached fruition. We can now all look forward to a great future for the fishing industry and for the townsfolk to enjoy some of the wonderful fish and shellfish that we have in our coastal waters.”
Leading this week’s ceremony, Richard Garland, co-founder of Gradient Consultants, which is the development’s project managers, said, “This is a community project that is the culmination of many years of perseverance and the determination of so many people coming together to realise a vision, that will not just change lives, but shape a community and bring prosperity to our great town.
“The announcement from SELEP was amazing news for the fishermen, with whom we have worked with over the past four years, and to see the first building emerge out of the ground is a very proud moment for all the projects local partners and stakeholders.”
The Eastbourne Under 10m Fishermen’s Community Interest Company represents fishing families who fish from boats under 10 metres in length.
The fleet has essentially ‘squatted’ on a derelict piece of land in the middle of the Sovereign Harbour development since this was first built.
The fishermen have for years sought to regularise their occupation of this area of land, and to develop it in ways that will make their industry safer, more attractive and more profitable.
The CIC was set up to support this aim. With the support of the New Economics Foundation, East Sussex County Council and Eastbourne Borough Council, the CIC drew up plans to buy and develop this area of land in three phases.
Planning permission was originally granted in 2013 by Eastbourne Borough Council for the scheme designed by Eastbourne company Spitfire Architecture.
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