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Words: Glynis Fox
Photography: Mick Fox
Featured in the October 2013 issue

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The North Lincolnshire town of Scunthorpe is “staying positive” and holding tight to its dream of seeing a major jobs-boosting investment become reality and help to supercharge the town’s economy.

North Lincolnshire Council, and others keen to see Able UK given the green light to create a £450 million Marine Energy Park on the South Bank of the Humber, are having to play the waiting game after a Government minister called for more information.

This important wind turbine manufacturing plant, destined for Killingholme, would provide work for 9,000 people, include 4,100 direct jobs in an area on Scunthorpe’s doorstep.

A third delay on a decision to give the final go-ahead for the development has occurred because transport minister Norman Baker wants assurances over two issues relating to the 906-acre site. They relate to the future of a disused railway branch line and compensatory habitats for the Godwit.

But North Lincolnshire Council’s head of strategic regeneration, housing and development, Marcus Walker said that authority remains upbeat.

“The transport minister is ‘mindful to approve this application’, so that’s really good news. We just need a bit more assurance on the rail issue and habitat compensation and we are working on this now,” said Mr Walker.

The Government wants further details and assurances by 25th September, and the minister has promised to make a decision by 18th December.

Aside from this, the proposed Able Logistics Park has been given planning permission and it will create 5,300 jobs, and give a total of 14,400 employment opportunities. This Park represents an investment of £120m.

While the exciting renewable energy sector is generating a real buzz in this part of the world, Scunthorpe remains home to many other well-known employers, including successful and growing businesses which provide work for thousands of people.

They include Tata Steel, door specialist The Bradbury Group, the Clugston Group and Wren, to name just few. But there is no doubting that Able UK plans could be the icing on the cake when it comes to future employment.

New jobs will attract more families to the area, pushing the need for more housing and enhanced educational facilities. The town will also need to ensure it continues to provide a great mix of shopping, services and crowdpulling events.

Mr Walker said the Able UK Marine Energy Park is key to regenerating Scunthorpe and kickstarting the massive Lincolnshire Lakes project. The Lucent Group is behind the scheme, earmarked for the west of Scunthorpe, which itself could create more than 3,800 construction jobs.

“Lincolnshire Lakes will deliver 6,000 houses and Lucent will provide about half of these. The Group has already submitted planning applications. These will be determined by June 2014, but other applications may also be submitted over the next few months,” said Mr Walker.

While the prospect of new jobs and more housing is good news for the town, it is also vital that the local economy contains the right mix of skills to meet the needs of fast-expanding employers.

Success in getting a university technical college (UTC) built in the town could go a long way to providing a solution.

UTCs, which are funded by the Department for Education offer students the chance to gain specialised technical skills alongside studying academic subjects.

There is strong support for a UTC in Scunthorpe, from a consortium made up of representatives from local companies, education and public agencies.

North Lincolnshire Council has an ambitious £170 million Masterplan to boost the town centre and it is currently looking for a development partner.

“The Council owns a lot of land in the town centre and we are looking at all of the options for delivering a new town centre, not just one,” said Mr Walker.

“There has been talk that a UTC could form part of a first phase of this, and a second bid for the College is being made in October, but other options are also being explored.”

Longer term plans could also see the redevelopment of the town’s market.

Scunthorpe shoppers are offered a wide choice in a town where you can find a wealth of mainstream national stores, including those in The Foundry and The Parishes shopping centres, as well as niche, independent businesses and market traders.

Tourism and town centre manager, Christine Edwards is upbeat for the future of the town which, in the twenty-first century, has to be seen as an attractive place where people will want to work, live and relax, and she believes that Scunthorpe is holding its own.

“About a year ago we started a programme of refurbishing vacant stalls in the Market and the food side is fully let, but we also have a programme to bring non-food stalls up to scratch, with sheltered units,” she said.

“The Market car park offers people two hours of free parking, which is great because it means businesses based there can operate on a level playing field with the supermarkets. The mix of traders currently includes seven different butchers, fruit and vegetable sellers, as well as deli and cake stalls.”

A number of other car parks around the town centre also offer two hours’ free parking.

The Podium @ Scunthorpe Market is a purpose-built exhibition and events space in the market’s Old Hall. Events recently staged there have included car shows, antique fairs and dance performances.

Christmas is a big event in the town centre and this year the festivities begin with the Christmas Lights Switch-On. It will be hosted by Lincs FM and will feature special guest Father Christmas – the date to note is Thursday, 21st November.

Staying with shopping, planning consent has been given for a £23m development behind the old Trent Valley Garden Centre site, signalling the promise of 300 more jobs.

North Lincolnshire Council is working with developer the Simons Group to Build a 40,000 sq ft Marks & Spencer, a 40,000 sq ft Debenhams and Boots stores, as well as let another 10,000 sq ft unit.

It is hoped work will get underway this autumn and that the site will be fully occupied in 2014.

MILESTONE FOR D&M SADDLERY
Horse lovers, Diana and Mandy Mason have jumped a significant milestone – after celebrating thirty years at the helm of D&M Mason Saddlery.

And they have plenty to be pleased about, because the successful business – which has been at its current Mary Street address since 1999 – is now serving the offspring of its original customers’ children!

Both women ploughed a wealth of knowledge and enthusiasm into their business from the outset. Diana had her own riding school for several years beforehand and worked with showjumpers. Mandy trained for her British Horse Society exams, whilst working with Portuguese Lusitano stallions and international dressage horses.

Mandy is very happy that the business, which is based close to the High Street and within easy reach of nearby car parks, is so well-established.

“We have a very loyal customer base but what is frightening now, is that my original customers are not only bringing in their children, but also their grandchildren!” she said.

The shop specialises entirely in horse riding and equestrian equipment. Mandy recently qualified as an E-SQP, enabling the business to continue selling horse wormers and advise on suitable worming programmes.

“We stock everything for horse and rider from saddles, bridles and rugs to hoof picks and plaiting bands. In riding gear, we have great value everyday products like hats, boots, body protectors and jodhpurs and a range of competition clothing,” she said.

Major brands include Weatherbeeta, Harry Hall, Masta and Mark Todd.Interestingly, D&M offers secondhand items for sale and any goods purchased from the shop will also be considered for part-exchange, provided they are in good condition.

In addition, the business offers a repair service aimed at the leatherwork and rugs bought in-house and a saddle fitting service within a thirty miles radius of Scunthorpe.

As an ‘antidote’ to her busy shoplife Mandy is the proud owner of two Welsh Cobs bought in Horncastle – Belchford Amlodd and Belchford The Maverick.

“They are a handful at four years old, but definitely full of character! Both horses have competed at Ponies UK in hand and they will soon be ready to begin their ridden career. Amlodd has taken part in a showing clinic with Julie Templeton and a dressage lesson with Jane Bartle-Wilson. However, The Maverick is shyer and needs more time to prepare for events,” said Mandy.

D&M Mason Saddlery is open every day, except Sunday, from 9.30am until 5pm.

20-21 VISUAL ARTS CENTRE
Scunthorpe’s multi-faceted 20-21 Visual Arts Centre is a great place to go if you enjoy arts and crafts exhibitions; want to shop for an unusual gift; take part in a workshop or need a coffee break.

The venue, created out of a conversion of St John’s Church, in Church Square, is now in its eleventh year and has an exciting range of events coming up.

North Lincolnshire Council arts manager, Lisa Moran said: “We’re looking forward to another exciting year of fascinating exhibitions that inspire our busy programme of events and activities at the centre, providing something for all ages.”

There is a family fun day on Sunday, 29th September, being staged along with North Lincolnshire Museum – from 11am to 4pm. On 12th October, the centre will be joining in with the National Big Draw Day and 26th October sees the return of the popular Pumpkin Day.

Future events will feature an exhibition about comic book character Judge Dredd from British comic 2000AD; an ambitious installation, ‘Burnt Out’ by Helen Snell, made using high-tech digital and laser-cutting techniques and an outdoor exhibition by Tony Stallard, which uses neon and links to the old church’s impressive architecture.

Over the years, the centre has attracted more than 450,000 visitors and there is little wonder.

“We show approximately twenty exhibitions a year and cover a wide range of arts and crafts with many techniques and styles on display. In addition, we are really keen to promote the idea that anyone can appreciate art and can try their hand at doing something creative in a friendly and welcoming environment,” said Lisa.

“We have a free creative activity every day and special sessions for children under five to explore art through play, alongside a vibrant workshop programme for adults to try their hand at making art or learning craft techniques with professional artists. In addition, we offer an inspiring programme for schools, making 20-21 a popular destination for education trips.”

Preserving the country’s heritage for future generations is an ongoing dilemma for the local council – and it is often a case of “heart and history versus budgets.”

St John’s Church is a shining model of success. Having served a thriving community since 1891, it was deconsecrated in 1984. It took four years of research and development and fifteen months of construction before the Grade Two-listed building, complete with extension, was ready to open to the public

The project has received more than £1.6m in support from the Arts Council of England, the European Regional Development Fund and The Single Regeneration Budget.

AT YOUR LEISURE
If you want a break from shopping or are looking for a great night out, Scunthorpe offers families plenty of choice.

The Baths Hall, a dazzling £15.3 million entertainment venue opened last November and boasts an events programme that includes theatre, comedy, music, family shows, variety and dance.

Since opening it has welcomed top acts, such as Jimmy Carr, Jason Manford and The Moscow City Ballet.

The Plowright Theatre is a landmark on the local arts scene. It opened in 1958 and is also popular. The theatre welcomes a varied programme of high quality entertainment and performing arts, by many local professional and amateur bodies. It is also the place to enjoy drama, music, comedy and children’s shows, as well as pantomime.

For those who are sporty, or who love to keep fit, there is The Pods in Ashby Road. This £21 million complex features a twenty-five-metre swimming pool, courts, a well-equipped gym, two fitness studios, a crèche and a café.

Fancy dipping into the local history of the area? A visit to North Lincolnshire Museum in Oswald Road could be just the ticket.

Or you might fancy trying something unique – by boarding a restored locomotive and letting members of the Appleby Frodingham Railway Preservation Society take you around the Tata Steel site on a Steam Railtour.

Expert guides explain the iron and steel-making processes as the loco travels around fifteen miles of track – and you could get a glimpse of red-hot steel being rolled in the mills.

Railtours operate on selected Saturdays through the summer or rail enthusiasts might choose to take a four-hour Break Van Tour during the winter months. For more details and to book, call the Tourist Information Centre on 01652 657053.

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