WISBECH: Fenland Council brings about a new era for town's marine industry

PUBLISHED: 18:43 06 July 2009 | UPDATED: 09:08 02 June 2010

Anna's owners, David Evans and Kathy Ward

Anna's owners, David Evans and Kathy Ward

AS the Dutch barge Anna was winched slowly up the new slipway in bright summer sunshine, a new era for Wisbech s marine industry was born. It was the first boat to be hauled up the revitalised slipway, which has lain redundant for almost 20 years. And it

AS the Dutch barge Anna was winched slowly up the new slipway in bright summer sunshine, a new era for Wisbech's marine industry was born.

It was the first boat to be hauled up the revitalised slipway, which has lain redundant for almost 20 years. And it brings the prospect of more work and extra jobs for the area.

Several years ago the Nene Waterfront Regeneration Scheme identified the slipway as a key element in developing the area's commercial potential because such facilities are few and far between along the east coast.

Peter Harvey, Fenland District Council's marine services manager, said that, following the success with Anna, new inquiries were already coming in, including the prospect of boat-building.

"We expect that in the medium term the slipway could be the catalyst for providing up to 25 direct and indirect jobs in the area," he said.

The 24-metre, 80-tonne Anna had been sitting idle in the yacht harbour for six weeks while work on the slipway was completed. It will now stay in Wisbech for a few weeks for survey and repair.

Its owner, David Evans, from Leicestershire, watched its progress up the slipway with his partner, Kathy Ward.

"Everyone here has been really helpful. They've been brilliant," he said. "For amateurs like me, it's fantastic to have this facility here; otherwise the nearest ones are in Lowestoft or the Humber."

The new slipway will provide much-needed repair and maintenance facilities for larger leisure and commercial craft. Its opening marks a new chapter in Wisbech's distinguished marine history.

Councillor Mac Cotterell, portfolio holder with responsibility for marine services, said: "This is a really exciting development, especially because it offers the prospect of more training in new skills for young people in Fenland. It would be particularly nice to see the return of apprenticeships in boatbuilding here, for example."

In the 19th century Henson's and other shipbuilders had a significant slipway near what is now the Crab Marsh Boatyard. More recently, the one that has now been recommissioned was owned and operated by Dagless, builders of prestigious wooden and, latterly, fibreglass motor cruisers sold under the class name Fleur de Lys.


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