Colliers International planning and heritage expert James Edwards said the project – which saw the Dunkirk veteran paddle steamer restored to its former glory – proved shipbuilding and repair businesses still had a part to play in the heart of the city.
He said: “Hundreds turned out to watch the rebuilt Medway Queen make her way out of drydock and down the River Avon. The restoration project has shown that it is more important than ever for Bristol to preserve its own rich maritime history – as well as saving vital skills for the future.”
The paddle steamer which helped rescue thousands of soldiers from the beaches of Dunkirk back in 1940 was a semi derelict hulk when it was brought to Bristol.
Restoration work on the hull began in Bristol in 2011 thanks to a £1.86m Heritage Lottery Grant. It was the first ship of its size to be re-built this way in the UK in more than 50 years.
James Edwards – whose office at Colliers International’s Bristol office overlooks the city waterside – said the Albion Dockyard was a vibrant and characterful business community bringing workers as well as visitors into the heart of the city.
He said: “It was great to see the Medway Queen leave its drydock at the Underfall Yard this week and begin its voyage back to Kent.
“I know the dockyard has other projects coming on stream which is great news for the city docks, as well as the nearby marina and boat yard.
“The successful re-launch of the Medway Queen shows that we clearly have the skillset and the facilities to provide this industry in the city. Alongside the activity at the Underfall yard it is vital that we support this industry, particularly when so much money rides on the attraction of water whether it be property or leisure and commercial boating.
“The locations of the shipbuilding and ship repairs businesses in the centre of Bristol are important for the trade that they serve and it would be a real shame to see these businesses disappear whether through development pressure of foreign competition.
“Their presence on the docks, whether it be the operational patent slipway at the Underfall yard or the dry dock are a rarity these days in big cities and the quality of this dockside architecture is paramount to understanding how these cities developed.”
James, who has lobbied to preserve various aspects of Bristol’s maritime past, said news of layoffs at major shipyards at Govan and Portsmouth had re-ignited debate about the UK’s role as a major maritime nation .
“Whilst Albion dockyard is clearly a much smaller operation and would be unable to replace or replicate the major projects undertaken at Govan and Portsmouth it is clear that as an island nation we still require these valuable skills. The retention of even the smallest operations such as Bristol is as vital for the urban landscape as it is for British manufacturing.”