launch event in the Old Town of the £800,000 to secure Leigh as a fishing port

By Times Reporter in Community News

FURTHER details were released at a launch event in the Old Town of the £800,000 that has been granted to secure the future of Leigh as a fishing port.

This is a massive boost, not only for the fishing industry in Leigh but for Leigh itself, too.

Never before has the area been allocated this sort of money.

Thames Estuary Partnership (TEP) that will be overseeing that the money is spent well over the next three years, organised a day of celebration in the Old Town to officially announce the grant. It had been exclusively revealed by Leigh Times before Christmas.

The North Thames FLAG, as the project is known, has been awarded the grant to be spent over three years (2017-2020) to deliver a range of projects against their five priority themes:

* Leigh Quayside infrastructure: To secure improvements to the quayside and channels that enable access to the port, creating well-functioning commercial spaces and ensuring that the port is fully accessible by all boats.

* Environmental Monitoring: Changes in the estuary environment have seen some species disappear (shrimp) while others have thrived (Thornback Ray). Long term research in partnership between the industry, academics and other stakeholders will help to reconcile anecdotal data with formal scientific analysis thus helping to inform marine and fishing policy and management.

* Combined fish/shellfish marketing: Collaboration between the industry and other partners to better promote the FLAG catch as sustainable and distinctive to the area, creating higher margins and new sales opportunities, and encouraging more direct sales to businesses and communities.

* Training and Marine Academy: To help up-skill new entrants to the industry and provide bespoke training for marine related courses in the local area, as well as offering training/advice for local businesses supporting sustainable links between the fishing industry and the wider maritime and business community.

* Culture and heritage: Recognising the deep cultural heritage of fishing and the industry locally - including cooking - with close links to on-going or developing heritage and cultural projects.

As a result of securing FLAG status investment, activity and profile, which wouldn’t otherwise have been levered, will be delivered to the benefit of North Thames fisheries. These are a unique part of Southend’s economy and play a significant role in the national shell fishing industry.

Some of the actions to deliver against these objectives will be delivered by the FLAG, others will be delivered by partners who can submit applications to the FLAG in response to funding calls that they issue to deliver on their behalf. These ‘third party’ bids will have to be agreed with the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) prior to award.

TEP is the FLAG lead partner. As a result they have the responsibility for all the administration of the partnership and are able to draw down 15% of the funding to cover overheads. The funding will also cover two members of staff (part time) to support the FLAG – an administrative officer based within TEP and a project animator based in Southend at the Cultural Engine.

As a community led partnership a partnership agreement needs to be put in place with the council.

A report to the council explains: “The first piece of work the FLAG would like to undertake is a feasibility study for which they have received a quote of £65k from Mott McDonald, one of the council’s term contractors. The council has been asked to underwrite the £65k cost of the study to be reimbursed in arrears following MMO approval.

“The fishing industry, while representing a small proportion of Southend’s economy, is a significant contributor to the national shell fishing sector and plays an important role in the heritage, community and offer of Leigh. It has not benefitted from investment of this kind previously so this offers a unique opportunity to better tell the story of fisheries in Leigh while deriving the benefits from its five-point pla, outlined above.

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