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Words: Melanie Burton
Photography: Mick Fox, Painting by David Work
Featured in the February 2012 issue

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A major initiative, launched to help re-establish Market Rasen as a thriving Lincolnshire market town, looks set to help make 2012 a good year for both residents and businesses in the area.

Shopping, leisure, business, education and transport are just some of the topics that will be addressed under the new Market Rasen Neighbourhood Plan, which has been embraced by all sectors of the community.

A steering committee met for the first time last month and more than 150 people are engaged in the project.

Market Rasen Neighbourhood Plan Group interim chair, Carol Skye said: “The Plan involves everything from business and planning – where developments can take place and the infrastructure needed in the area – to social care.

“We have recruited about sixteen main active volunteers, some are business people, and we have had lots of ideas put forward on how to improve business in the area. More than 200 initiatives have been suggested relating to the business environment and business growth.”

Monthly advice and information sessions are being held at the Rasen Hub in Union Street and on the first Saturday of the month there is a town forum to give people the opportunity to consider ideas, talk to local councillors over a coffee and air their views.

“There was a lot of discussion about the infrastructure of the area, road improvements, rail improvements and communication” said Miss Skye.

“Business advice has disappeared recently, with the loss of Business Link, so a business growth group is on the cards and we are calling on the community to get involved with the project for the future of Market Rasen, particularly people in financial management, business management, architects and designers.

“We want to see the town back to a thriving market town again but with twenty-first-century facilities,” she said.

There are also plans to establish a website so the community is kept well informed of what’s happening in the town. It will include a blog by a professional person.

In addition, the group is to explore the possibility of establishing a large multi-use leisure facility, with a performance area, cinema, youth activity section, swimming pool, and leisure pursuits to help people improve their health.

“We had a wish tree at the Christmas Market, where people could suggest their ideas on what they would like to see in Market Rasen and 147 suggestions were posted on the tree.Top of the list was a large multi-use leisure facility,” said Miss Skye.

“We even consulted the children and asked them what they wanted to see in the town. A mini-zoo was one suggestion, a shopping mall was another and they wanted things like more WiFi spots available.”

But Roger Clark, partner in the long-established, family-run electrical retailer Peter Rhodes, feels quality and dedication from retailers are what will attract more people to Market Rasen.

The business was set up in 1957 by Peter and Joyce Rhodes and now employs thirty staff. It is now owned by Mrs Rhodes and her son-in-law, Mr Clark.

“Market Rasen is a difficult place. It’s quite small and it is a prosperous town. It’s surrounding area is prosperous too and prosperous people want to deal with businesses that know what they are doing. They can afford to pay for that quality so we have very good businesses,” said Mr Clark.

“These days retailers in the town need to do their job properly. It is amazing what a difference it makes. That’s the only thing that will attract people - quality shops and retailers who are here for the long term. It’s trying to find things to attract them to the town that is the problem,” said Mr Clark.

The business has customers across the whole of Lincolnshire and operates four shops in Market Rasen and Louth.

“Because we are in a country area we can reach all the towns - Lincoln, Grimsby, Horncastle and Scunthorpe and we cover the whole of North Lincolnshire pretty much. We do kitchens as well and we are finding that people are not moving now, they are upgrading their houses more instead.”

Peter Rhodes has a main store, kitchen centre and service centre in Market Rasen and a store in Mercer Row, Louth.

“Business has been fine and this year the Olympics will be particularly good for us. The BBC is broadcasting it all in 3D and HD too. That will be the first time that has ever happened.

“As it is the first time we have had the Olympics, it will get everyone going. It will add a buzz to the town and it goes on for ages so it is a very positive thing,” added Mr Clark.

Market Rasen Town Council has been working hard on ways to attract more visitors and improve the town’s image.

Former acting town clerk, Graham Parish said: “There are a number of initiatives and events taking place to help boost business and increase footfall in the town. There is a lot going on behind the scenes.”

One thing the council hopes will help boost the town’s trade is better, and more, signage for car parking. It has also created a new town map and a community noticeboard to give people an idea of where shops are located and what is available.

“We don’t feel there’s enough indication of where the parking spaces are, so better signage will make it easier for people to find them. We are also putting on a food fayre and we have agreed for two organisations to run gardeners’ markets on June 3 and 4 and one in July in the Market Place,” said Mr Parish.

The marketplace has been an integral part of Market Rasen for more than 700 years and still plays an important part in the town’s economy. Originally the market was staged on Sundays, but that changed to Tuesdays in the early thirteenth century. Now markets are held on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays and community events take place there throughout the year.

The council is planning to develop and expand the market to try and encourage more people to shop in Market Rasen.

“From 1st April the council has agreed to lower the pitch rents for market traders to encourage more traders for market days on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Hopefully this will increase visitors to the town,” said Mr Parish.

It is also working with West Lindsey District Council to make the town safer and more presentable.

“We are looking at the state of some of the properties in the town to make sure they are kept up to standard. There may be empty shops, but the council doesn’t want boarded up shops next to ones which are trading, so we are trying to improve the image of the town,” added Mr Parish.

“We have also put in a bid for CCTV cameras, to try and make Market Rasen a safer environment.”

COURSE RACES AHEAD
Throughout the year, Market Rasen is a magnet for racegoers from all over the country.

This destination is renowned for its racecourse, which is the only one in Lincolnshire and which has in the past been voted one of the best small racecourses in the North Midlands by the Racegoers’ Club.

But the racecourse has more to offer visitors than horse racing. It boasts a golf course, a venue centre, a restaurant with spectacular views overlooking the pre-parade ring and a winners’ enclosure. It is also an ideal place for weddings.

Market Rasen and Nottingham Racecourses’ managing director, Pip Kirby said there are lots of attractions planned for the coming year.

“Market Rasen Racecourse had a very successful 2011 and we have exciting plans in store for 2012.

“We will be launching a brand new Italian restaurant concept, Mama J’s, in the spring, which will be unlike anything seen on a racecourse, with informal dining based on sharing among the party.

“In addition, we have two music nights planned for after-racing – Radio 1 DJ Sara Cox is already confirmed for Saturday, 18th August, and we hope to have exciting news regarding a big name booking for Saturday, 1st September.”

Market Rasen Racecourse is a National Hunt course and stages a year-round programme of racing, although National Hunt racing is traditionally a winter sport.

Its most high-profile fixture is the Summer Plate meeting, normally staged on the third Saturday in July, which features the two-and-a-quarter miles

Summer Hurdle and the eponymous Summer Plate, a two-and-three-quarter miles chase, both of which are among the most valuable National Hunt races staged in Britain during the summer months.

During the winter, in addition to National Hunt racing, a point-to-point course is laid out on the inside of the National Hunt course.

Market Rasen Racecourse’s next meeting takes place on Tuesday, 7th February when it will be Residents’ Day. Anyone living in Lincolnshire gets in for half-price. On Sunday, 19th February it is Circus Sunday - a family-friendly race day with circus entertainment.

The racecourse, with its acres of space, both indoors and out, is a flexible venue and it has previously hosted car exhibitions, fun runs and dog shows. With its on-site stabling and hostel it is the perfect venue for holiday adventure clubs or pony club/riding club camps.

Business is well catered for through its Paddocks venue centre. With green views across the racecourse, it is ideal for a variety of events and lends itself to high-profile product launches, showcases and demonstrations, as well as regional and national conferences, sales meetings, board meetings and training seminars.

Its picturesque setting makes the Racecourse an attractive location for wedding receptions too, with suites to suit breakfasts for twenty to 250 guests.

SHAKEN FROM SLUMBERS
Once described by Charles Dickens as the ‘sleepiest town in England’, Market Rasen is a small market town on the edge of the Lincolnshire Wolds.

It was originally known as East Rasen, with Middle Rasen being the more important location, and West Rasen following on from there. But it became prominent when it was granted the right to a market 700 years ago.

The town’s first ever market took place in the 1300s and, over the years, it has seen a wide assortment of goods bought and sold, including cattle, arable crops, grain, coal, fertiliser and salt.

Much development took place during the 1870s which increased the appeal and the prosperity of the town. Two corn exchanges were built and there was a major redevelopment of St Thomas’ Church.

Historically the town’s economy was based upon agriculture, due to its largely rural setting, and it is still a significant contributor today with around twelve per cent of the workforce engaged in activity related to agriculture.

At one time in the nineteenth century Market Rasen had nearly a dozen breweries or beer houses, dealers in coal, lime, sand and agricultural requisites, and manufacturers of items as diverse as tiles, washing machines and mangles.

There were many inns and coaching houses, and the town was a centre for carters from surrounding villages, who converged on it for market days.

In 2008, Market Rasen found itself at the epicentre of an earthquake measuring 5.2 on the Richter scale – the largest in the UK for twenty-five years.

The name Market Rasen derives from Old English and means ‘place at (market) the planks’ which would refer to a plank bridge across the river. The name appeared in the fourteenth century as Marketrasyn.

Famous people connected to Market Rasen include award-winning actor Jim Broadbent, who was born nearby in May 1949, and Rodney Lynn Temperton who, in 1982, wrote three songs for Michael Jackson’s album ‘Thriller’ - including the title track - which remains the biggest-selling album of all time. Born in Cleethorpes in 1947, he attended Market Rasen’s De Aston School.

And Sir Elton John’s lyricist Bernie Taupin married in the town in 1971, with Elton as his best man.

A BOOST FOR BUSINESS
Help and support is on offer for businesses and individuals in Market Rasen through the Rasen Hub, a multi-use resource centre for the community.

The former block of flats, in Union Street, has been refurbished and has a brand new office upstairs, a free car park and offices to let.

It is a base where people can get help and support on anything from searching for employment to finding out what is going on in the area with local businesses, activities and events.

And there is something for everyone this year at the Hub, which is a not-for-profit organisation.

It is an ideal place for start-up businesses and hosts a Credit Union on Thursdays, offering help and low-cost loans.

Advice and information sessions are held from 10am to 1pm on the first Friday of each month, with a different theme every month, when representatives from various services will be on hand to offer help and support.

Rasen Hub chair, Carol Skye said: “To make us sustainable we let out offices to bring in income which we can then put back into providing services. We have started a family history group and that is full. We have several craft clubs on the go which are proving very popular.

“We now have a Credit Union at the Hub, which is open one day a week for people if they want low cost loans and we are helping to develop the Neighbourhood Plan for the Market Rasen area.”

A monthly town forum, held on the first Saturday of each month, offers the community the chance to air their views, take part in the Neighbourhood Plan project and chat with councillors.

The Hub is open from Monday to Friday, between 9.30am and 1pm, and is manned by a centre co-ordinator and a small group of volunteers.

For more information e-mail rasenhub@live.co.uk or call 01673 844556.

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