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Words: Glynis Fox
Photography: Mick Fox
Featured in the May 2012 issue

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Lincoln is bucking the national trend and remains a lively shopping and leisure destination, thanks to having fewer empty shops than many other UK towns and cities.

The latest figures reveal that just 7.5 per cent of the city’s shop units are awaiting new tenants - a figure which is much lower than the national average.

The number of shoppers and tourists spending time in Lincoln remains steady and there are many good reasons why this should grow in 2012, despite the challenging economic climate.

Investors continue to plough millions of pounds into the local economy, creating further choice and much-needed jobs. An example is the city’s newest hotel project, which is taking shape in Broadgate.

New attractions and a packed calendar of events are also tempting people to discover that Lincoln has plenty to offer - often more than they suspected!

Lincoln BIG (Business Improvement Group) chief executive, Matt Corrigan said: “Our shop vacancy rate currently stands at just over seven per cent, against the national average of fourteen per cent.

“It would be great to see this fall even further but, in common with many other UK destinations, we have lost some retailers, including the branches of national companies which have closed down.”

Despite this, recent surveys featuring Lincoln are far from gloomy. One even highlighted that the city is a hotspot for entrepreneurs launching independent new ventures.

According to insurance broker Simply Businesses, the rate of business start-ups increased more in Lincoln than anywhere else in the UK last year - with a 13.6 per cent increase on 2010.

Much time and energy is being devoted to new initiatives and projects aimed at raising Lincoln’s profile nationally and internationally over the coming months.

“Perhaps the area which is facing the most changes at the moment is Sincil Street, but this is in line with plans to progress the multi-million pound Lindongate project and movement in this area is influencing the vacancy rate,” said Mr Corrigan. The adjacent markets area could also be substantially revitalised if Lincoln is successful in its bid to become a Mary Portas Pilot destination and wins £100,000 in regeneration cash.
Shopping-wise, Lincoln’s strength lies in the sheer variety of stores that it offers, from some of the best known names on the High Street through to tiny boutiques with a unique twist.

Approach the city centre by way of the lower High Street and you will find a wealth of independent stores, which are complemented by the St Mark’s Retail Park (now fifteen years old), which is anchored by the Debenhams store.

The central High Street is home to some of the best known multinationals and the Waterside Shopping Centre, which recently celebrated its twentieth birthday.

In the upper High Street it’s worth checking out the niche retailers in The Mall and there are scores more homegrown shops to browse in The Strait, in Britain’s Greatest Street - Steep Hill - and in the popular historic Bailgate area.

“We are delighted to report that Thursday Late Night Shopping remains a firm feature for shopaholics, with the added attraction of a great £1.50 parking deal at NCP’s High Street Car Park. It is hoped that many more stores will come on board or rejoin the scheme this year,” said Mr Corrigan.

Events and new initiatives are absolutely vital to today’s successful town or city and Lincoln is no exception.

This year, Lincoln is working harder than ever to raise its profile, following the launch of Brand Lincoln - an exciting rebranding exercise which the Visit Lincoln Partnership is confident has the power to bring in more tourists and visitors.

The VLP aims to make a visible difference to the wealth of the local economy - by concentrating on the themes of tourism, trade and talent.

Easter provided the Partnership with a superb opportunity when it teamed up with Lincoln BIG to announce a new service for visitors (and locals!) - the return of the city’s Open Top Tour Bus.

This ‘Hop on - Hop off’ service offers users the chance to enjoy an hour-long, information-packed tour of Lincoln’s many different quarters and its top attractions, which are being brought to life by specially trained tour guides.

Lincoln’s diary of unmissable events is bursting with great things and is enhanced this year, with chances to celebrate the 2012 Olympics, enjoy the visit of the Torch Relay and mark the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.

Excitingly, Lincoln BIG’s Olympics Live site on the Cornhill will be one of just nineteen official sites in the UK where people can watch the Olympic events on a ‘big screen’.

A colourful Moroccan Market is taking place in the High Street and Cornhill areas from 16th - 20th May. It is due to be opened by Her Highness Princess Lalla Joumala, Ambassador of His Majesty The King of Morocco to the Court of St James in London and Lincoln BIG’s Jazz Week (12th - 17th May) will feature headliner Clare Teal and Her Musicians on 17th May.

Lincoln’s growing evening economy has recently been boosted by new multi-million pound investments, including HOME, a nightspot in Park Street and the Silver Street nightclub Tokyo.

As we went to press, Lincoln’s evening economy manager, Marion Cooney added that the city is now hoping to achieve Purple Flag status - an award which will acknowledge that Lincoln is vibrant and well-managed ‘after dark’.

And Lincoln Castle has won a £12 million National Lottery grant paving the way for this historic monument to be transformed into a world class tourist attraction.

The £19.9m Lincoln Castle Revealed project will now see the creation of a purpose-built Magna Carta centre and free entry to the Castle Grounds. The project is due to be completed by 2015.

Lincolnshire Chamber recently unveiled its latest economic survey findings, in conjunction with Lincolnshire County Council.

The pattern for 2011 revealed small increases and decreases in business performance quarter on quarter, but the general trend was upwards and that is expected to continue this year.

Chamber chief executive, Simon Beardsley said: “Businesses are generally much more optimistic about their prospects, in comparison to last year, with over ten per cent more expecting their turnover and profitability to grow.”

Mr Beardsley said a higher number of businesses than previously said they intended to raise their planned investment in plant and training.

Findings come as Siemens continues to prepare the way for its new development at Teal Park. Bifrangi is also creating 100 new jobs as part of a £50m investment to install a giant screw press at Tower Works in Lincoln.

Mr Beardsley welcomed tourism sector investment and progress towards Lincoln’s East-West Link Road and the Eastern Bypass.

“Recent investment gained in Lincoln Castle by Lincolnshire County Council will support Lincoln’s visitor economy and the Olympics, the Royal Diamond Jubilee and the trend towards ‘staycations’ are all likely to boost our second largest sector, which is worth some £1 billion to the county’s economy,” said Mr Beardsley.

Get your diary ready
There’s so much going on in Lincoln over the coming months, that it’s impossible to mention everything, but the highlights include:
16th - 20th May Moroccan Market, Lincoln High Street and Cornhill
4th & 5th June Jubilee Bank Holiday
10th June Lincoln Bike Fest, Brayford Waterfront
16th June City Square, MG Car Club
27th June Olympic Torch Relay, 5.10pm Olympic Flame arrives - South Park Avenue, 3pm Lincoln’s Festival of Light begins
30th June - 7th July Beam Children’s Festival, City Square
23rd July - 1st Sept Lincoln By The Sea, City Square
27th July - 12th Aug Lincoln Olympic, Live Site active Lincoln Cornhill

Follie now online too
Follie is a beautiful little shop run by Josie Rossington which she opened in November 2004. Located in the historical Cathedral Quarter of Lincoln, it is charming, inviting and tempting, selling a delightful collection of home accessories, gifts and decorative items.

The shop stocks ranges from a variety of homeware and gift suppliers including Linum, Sophie Allport, Branche D’Olive, PIP Studio, Retreat Home, Lisbeth Dahl, jewellery by Danon, Estella Bartlett, Martine Wester, Rosie Fox and Pranella and cards from Wrendale Designs, Laura Darrington, Stop the Clock and Liz and Pip.

Alongside these products sourced throughout the UK and Europe, Josie also uses her creative skills to produce a variety of gorgeous handmade gifts and accessories such as personalised lavender hearts, cards and keyrings and has been selling these successfully via the shop and a website specialising in unique and carefully made things.

For a while Josie has been keen to explore another outlet for Follie and so, in February this year, an online boutique was launched. As a natural progression from the existing shop, she hopes that it conveys the same welcoming and enticing atmosphere, offering visitors the chance to buy something from ‘that lovely little shop we went into in Lincoln’, attracting customers who have not been to the city before as well as existing customers being able to see what’s new in.

Josie’s enthusiasm and passion for finding new products comes from a penchant for shopping, the love of beautiful things, a desire for something that little bit different and she hopes that the collection remains individual and quirky. So if you are looking for something a bit different why not have a browse and add it to your ‘favourites’?

Visit Lincoln Partnership
The Visit Lincoln Partnership (VLP) has hit the ground running in the drive to spread word of the city as a great shopping, sightseeing and leisure destination - following the launch of Brand Lincoln.

The branding is made up of strong imagery, which reflects Lincoln’s unique identity. This includes a stylised emblem and a specially tailored typeface, featuring characters which give a nod to the city’s Gothic arches.

This eye-catching tool is being used to help Lincoln to become more widely known and to attract more day and staying visitors, as part of the serious business of driving up economic wealth and creating more much-needed jobs.

Tourism is vitally important to Lincoln, which attracts three million visitors a year, who inject £125m into the local economy. The sector also employs about 2,000 people. Tourism chiefs are hoping to attract 4.8m visitors by 2020.

VLP manager, Emma Tatlow said: “Ultimately we want to raise the profile of Lincoln as a place to visit, study and invest - creating jobs and supporting a vibrant local economy.

“The partnership has strong support from businesses, organisations, the education and hospitality sectors and our themes for promoting Lincoln centre on tourism, trade and talent.

“Easter provided a fantastic opportunity for us to entice more people to discover the city by hopping on board the newly-launched Lincoln Open Top Tour Bus, which offers people the chance to see the very best that Lincoln can offer.

“The twelve-stop service is complemented by a team of highly-knowledgeable tour guides, who have a wealth of anecdotes to share and who are keen to make the tour as enjoyable and memorable as possible.

“We have devised a range of Visit, Tour and Explore packages to offer visitors real choice and superb value, with the aim of ensuring they get the maximum enjoyment out of their experience.”

Lindongate - Progress
Lincoln’s £100 million pound Lindongate scheme is one step nearer to reality after planners gave the green light to this long-awaited project which is being promoted by site owners Lincolnshire Co-operative.

Lincoln-based commercial surveyor Banks Long & Co, which is Agent for the Society, believes that the granting of outline planning permission will allow real progress to be made.

However, there is much work to be done in order to pave the way for new building work on shop units, apartments and a new transport interchange.

Councillors gave their approval after a second public consultation, which revealed strong support for the development, which the Society is keen to bring to fruition, not just to regenerate the Sincil Street area but also for the benefit of the whole city centre.

Banks Long consultant, Peter Banks said Lindongate has the power to make Lincoln a much bigger magnet for shoppers and leisure seekers and the project continues to attract serious interest from potential investors.

The development is poised to create 300,000 sq ft of new shopping space, including a department store and additional shop units, as well as up to 900 car parking spaces.

Riverside restaurants, with apartments above; a new transport interchange next to the Lincoln’s St Mary’s Street railway station and a new footbridge, linking Tentercroft Street and the Sincil Bank area with the city centre, are also key to the scheme.

“The outline planning permission allows us to move forward, which is good because Lincoln is still attracting enquiries from national name retailers, despite the economic climate,” said Mr Banks.

“Lincolnshire Co-operative hopes to appoint a new development partner to manage and deliver this scheme within the next six months.

“Physically, the first phase of work required will entail creating the new footbridge over the railway requiring detailed agreement with Network Rail and East Midlands Trains.”

Lincoln Castle
News of a £12 million Heritage Lottery boost is a major shot in the arm for a top Lincoln tourist attraction.

Lincoln Castle bosses said the money means the £19.9m Lincoln Castle Revealed Project - which will feature the creation of a purpose-built centre for Magna Carta and free entry to the Castle grounds - will be finished by 2015.

The Lincoln Castle Revealed project also includes a new Heritage Skills Centre, repairs to the castle walls and the refurbishment of prison buildings at the monument.
The Lottery cash is expected to help drive up tourism by up to fifty-five per cent a year.

Lincolnshire County Council tourism and development manager, Mary Powell said finally getting the money has been worth the wait.

“With historic buildings, particularly one that is heading towards its 950th anniversary, there are no short cuts. It has been a long haul. It started in 2005 and the pace hotted up from 2008. I just feel that the Castle deserves it! It is a sleeping giant and it has so much potential.

“An independent Economic Impact Assessment was commissioned in 2009. This said, ‘It is estimated that the refurbishment of Lincoln Castle might reasonably be expected to ultimately unlock a major increase (between 29 - 55%) in the overall value of tourism to Lincoln, thereby acting to transform the visitor appeal of Lincoln as an historic destination.

“On the basis of the current value of Lincoln’s tourism sector, this would equate to £36m-£68m in terms of economic impact and some 600-1,100 additional FTE jobs’ (ECOTEC September 2009),” said Mrs Powell.

With the expansion of self-catering accommodation and people also staying in rural locations, the economic benefits are expected to be felt across the county.

“I think that the most important thing is that Lincoln will become quite firmly a short break destination. When the Castle work is complete, there will just be too much to see and do in Lincoln in one day. The knock-on effect of this to the tourism industry is enormous,” added Mrs Powell.

Mary Portas bid
Lincoln is chasing a windfall of £100,000 which would be used to inject new life into the city’s markets.

Lincoln BIG and the City of Lincoln Council are bidding for the city to become a Mary Portas Pilot destination and benefit from a share of £1 million to breathe extra vitality into the city centre.

Their multi-faceted plan, put forward in partnership with Lincolnshire Co-operative and the University of Lincoln, promises to substantially raise the profile of the city’s markets and ensure their survival for the future.

Lincoln BIG chief executive, Matt Corrigan said: “The idea is to create a markets brand by consolidating the many different markets we already host, add to them and bring them together to make some special for Lincoln.

“Our world famous Christmas Market already brings in 200,000 people over a four-day period, then we have our traditional indoor and outdoor markets, which have long traded in the city centre, plus our frequent, quality farmers’, artists’ and crafts markets.

“We are hoping to add to these with a Bizarre Bazaar, which would offer vintage clothing and other goods and to also give young people the opportunity to experience what it is like to sell from a market stall in the heart of the city.”

City of Lincoln Council economic regeneration manager, Kate Ellis said: “We want to develop and implement a strategic vision for Lincoln market that brings together refreshed indoor markets with a variety of regular street markets based on both established and new, innovative trading concepts.

“Through this we want to introduce, develop, support and train a new breed of entrepreneur through the experience of market trading, whether that is as a social enterprise or as a fledgling retail trader.

“We are also excited about the opportunity to bring different markets together and to work with the Thursday Late Night Shopping initiative, to make Thursday an extra special day of the week, which will also feature evening markets.”

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