Plymouth’s waterfront could be as welcoming as Sydney or Seattle harbours when a £75 million regeneration plan is complete.
Speaking to a panel of London-based financial and business journalists, Jason Schofield, CEO of Sutton Harbour Holdings, the AIM-listed company which owns and manages the famous waterfront, reiterated his vision for the harbour.
Mr Schofield said connectivity was the key to the transformation of Sutton Harbour and integrating it within the city so it becomes talked about on a national stage like Albert Docks in London, the Liverpool Docks or Gloucester Docks.
He said: “The Barbican doesn’t really mean anything to anyone outside the city. Is it a place, a building, a theatre? But as soon as you say Sutton Harbour it evokes water. We want to maximise that potential.”
Sutton Harbour Holding’s vision aims to improve the architectural look of the waterside venue while drawing on its rich history and heritage as a working fishing port.
The fleet which defeated the Spanish Armada left from Plymouth while Sir Francis Drake, Charles Darwin and Sir Francis Chichester all left on their adventures from Plymouth.
The captured Napoleonic fleet was brought to Sutton Harbour and the spoils of war were all splayed out on the quays for all to see.
Mr Schofield told his London guests that the £75m vision, which could generate almost £90m of gross added value for the city, had drawn inspiration from seaside towns such as Honfleur in Normandy which have successfully managed to marry residential, retail, offices spaces and fishing activities on their waterfronts.
Mr Schofield said: “We want to create a mini Dartmouth or Salcombe.
"People aspire and want to spend money in up market places and eat out in top restaurants. This is why we need to improve the area further.
“We want to improve the experience visitors and local residents alike have when they come to Sutton Harbour. That includes spaces to live, space for businesses to grow and improved fishing facilities.
“Having one of the biggest fishing ports on our door step is a massive asset.
"It must be the hook to bring more people in and a way to educate visitors about fishing.
“We have some of the best fishing ports in the Westcountry but we are not a nation of fish eaters. 75% of all catches is exported to the continent.
“There is a big education process which needs to happen.”
In total 12 sites have been highlighted by Sutton Harbour Holdings for regeneration projects with the potential to create 350,000 sq ft of new waterfront development.
Plans have also been drawn up for a £4.5m boardwalk featuring family restaurants and shops that will create a direct waterside pedestrian route between Guys Quay and Vauxhall Quay, which could create 100 jobs alone.
Through the vision, which Mr Schofield hopes will be completed by 2020, in time for the Mayflower 400 celebrations, it is hoped that visitor numbers will grow by 20% with visitor spend also rising from £252m to £315m.
The transformation of Sutton Harbour could help create 4,000 new jobs in the leisure and tourism economy.
But more importantly the vision for Sutton Harbour could strengthen the city’s position as the regional centre for Devon and Cornwall by creating a great day out and evening destination.
Mr Schofield said to achieve that, Sutton Harbour needed to offer even more independent eateries, shops and quality places to stay and also become a destination of choice for cultural events.
Already the waterfront has improved its offer through Rockfish from TV chef Mitch Tonks, the Real Food Kitchen and the newly revamped Cap’ Jaspers both on the Barbican.
He said: “Connectivity is key. When other well known waterfront destinations only have one or two entry points, we have dozens.
"What we want to do is improve our seven most important gateways so we get the footfall to and from the rest of the city feeding into the harbour the all way round.
“We believe Sutton Harbour can become a national destination and a focal point of Plymouth’s waterfront.”