Ambitious projects will open opportunities
Boston is looking forward to a new era, after being awarded millions of pounds from the Government’s Towns Fund scheme. By Melanie Burton
As the country gently starts to come out of Covid-19 restrictions, towns and cities are planning their road to recovery in all sectors from business and retail to homes and leisure.
Boston’s future prosperity has been helped further after the town was awarded £21.9 million, as part of the Towns Fund scheme, having put forward several ambitious projects aimed at creating jobs by investing in education, tourism, infrastructure and skills. The aim is to open up opportunities for future ways to support and revitalise the town post-Covid, providing a huge boost to regeneration and economic recovery.
The terms of the Towns Fund offer will be signed through a collaborative approach between the Boston Town Deal Board and Boston Borough Council, to enable the funding to be released before work starts on developing the business cases for each project.
Chair of the Boston Town Deal board and MD of Chestnut Homes, Neil Kempster, said: “This is a culmination of so much work, and it’s so exciting to see our hard work being rewarded. Boston deserves to be recognised as a historic and forward-thinking town.
“As with other Towns Fund recipients, we are determined to make sure this is a catalyst for more investment and further growth for the town.
“The projects we already have in motion thanks to accelerated funding from the Towns Fund are ambitious in their scope, and this further funding just underlines that.”
Thanks to the Towns Fund grant the whole of Boston’s logistics and transport sector looks set to see expansion in the coming years.
The recently completed Digital Transport and Logistics Academy at Boston College is the key to feeding the sector locally and the courses and resources available here will be second to none.
Already included are plans for a robotics course as well as suites of rooms for digital skills for lifelong learners. However, the equipment and facilities being invested in are already garnering attention from local firms, interested in working with the College.
Richard Chambers, the College’s head of projects said: “As well as being a hub for development of digital skills in general, from helping those who are not digital natives with basic skills and competencies through to cyber security and data analysis, the logistics and transport side of the new DTLA is truly exciting.
“We’ve already started to see some of the technology that we think will shape the future of learning arrive and we are also making inroads into providing the skills for the transport engineers of the future.”
The College is also set to continue work towards equipping warehouses with the requisite skills through their vocational training and education.
To also meet the skills gap the College is partnering with businesses to create Future Skills Solutions Boards. These will be employer-led groups that feed directly into the development of training programmes for current staff and ensure a pipeline of future employees into an industry that upskills and innovates constantly.
College principal, Claire Foster added: “The facilities and opportunities here at Boston College are incredibly exciting, we’re certain that the investment here will have a direct link to the future economic development of the area.
“If we are directly feeding the regional economy with the skills and knowledge that they require, then there is huge potential for success.”
Work is pressing ahead with several of the projects to enhance the centre of Boston and some other nearby locations. They will not only enrich the experience of visitors to the town but also give residents an insight into the heritage of the area. The work is well advanced and much of it will be in place in the late spring.
In the town centre signposting, maps and an arts trail will help visitors explore the town as well as highlighting the rich history of the Borough.
This will enhance cultural infrastructure, leading users to the wider retail offer of the town and presenting opportunities for fuller engagement with local businesses.
The Experience Boston project will share stories highlighting Boston’s historic trade and maritime associations and the influence that the town has had both locally and internationally.
At the same time the projects involved will develop physical interpretation and offer heritage resources that are focused on the historic environment of the town and its culture.
The arts trail consists of small artistic installations across the town, based on the themes ‘Travel, Trade and Influence’, communicating the historical importance of these aspects. These projects seek to complement other successful initiatives including the six Boston Buoys and Pilgrim Fathers Memorial on the bank of the Haven at Fishtoft.
Work is also ongoing to aid the safe reopening of the high street with the help of a ‘retail champion’. Boston Borough Council has appointed consultant Clare Bailey to support local businesses.
A well-known and respected retail expert in the UK and based within Lincolnshire, Clare has a wealth of knowledge on retail, high streets and consumer matters and is able to offer local independent businesses within the retail, hospitality and leisure sector unbiased and independent support.
Clare will offer specific tailored advice to each business, including how to access financial support, training, development of digital skills, ways to diversify and how to build consumer confidence.
Clare said: “As an independent business consultant, engaged by Boston Borough Council to support local, independent, businesses across the area I am looking forward to making a tangible difference. I am here to help in any way I can, supporting businesses in recovering from the economic impact of Covid.
“I am looking forward to talking to businesses, and seeking ways to build resilience, diversify, and transform for a different future, as we all focus on the safe reopening of our high streets, towns and village centres.”
Better broadband is also on the cards for Boston businesses after internet service provider Lightspeed Broadband announced it is bringing full fibre gigabit broadband to thousands of homes and businesses in market towns across the east of England over the next few years. Backed by an international investment consortium, Lightspeed Broadband has secured an initial £55 million investment to reach 100,000 homes by the end of 2022.
The company will be building the next generation of full fibre networks, connecting homes and businesses directly to gigabit broadband, much faster and more stable than internet services currently available in the area. The infrastructure build will start immediately in towns in South Lincolnshire and continue to roll-out in surrounding areas.
Boston is one of several Lincolnshire towns included in the initial list along with Bourne, Holbeach, Kings Lynn, Market Deeping, Skegness, Sleaford, Spalding and Stamford.
Chief executive officer of Lightspeed Broadband, Steve Haines, said: “The need for high-speed, reliable internet, is growing faster than ever as a result of the continually increasing demand for professional home working, multi-user high quality online entertainment, high speed gaming, home schooling and affordable multi-video, face-to-face call services.
“We are an experienced team of telecoms experts that have spent decades building and managing telecoms networks at BT. Collaborating with communities and local authorities we plan to start building immediately in market towns in Lincolnshire, bringing thousands of homes and businesses access to essential full fibre, ultra-reliable gigabit broadband they deserve, and then expanding to meet regional customer needs. We are really excited about the future.”
MP for Boston and Skegness and Minister for Digital Infrastructure, Matt Warman said: “It is our national mission to level up the country with next-generation broadband and build back better from the pandemic.
“While we are investing a record £5 billion to ensure really hard to reach areas get connected, we want big ideas and investment from industry to build a truly 21st century Britain.”
PLAN FOR HOMES
More than 40 affordable homes are to be built on the site of a former international printing company in Boston.
Longhurst Group has been granted planning permission to build the 47 homes on the former Magnadata site off Norfolk Street in the town.
The new development will see the regeneration of the vacant site and all the homes will be available for either shared ownership or affordable rent.
Marcus Keys, executive director of growth and development, said: “There’s a recognised need for affordable housing of this kind within Boston and the surrounding area and our Improving Lives strategy commits us to delivering the homes people need, where they’re needed most.
“By redeveloping this brownfield site, we’ll be doing just that and giving local people the opportunity to get onto the housing ladder in an affordable way.
“We’ve identified the housing need in the area, which is why this development will be made up of shared ownership and affordable rent properties.
“We’re confident that this development will be a welcome addition to this part of the town.”
Longhurst Group owns and manages more than 23,000 homes across the Midlands and East of England, including more than 5,000 in Lincolnshire, and has offices in Boston, Lincoln and Grimsby.
The Group’s main contractors for the development will be D Brown Building Contractors. Adam Mayer, commercial director, said: “We’re a local construction company with a proven track record of delivering similar schemes throughout Boston and are looking forward to continuing the great relationships we’ve got with the local supply chains to further support the local economy.”
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POACHER LINE ARTWORK
Major redevelopment is on the cards for Boston station over the next two years and the first step has been a project to brighten up the area.
The Poacher Line CRP along with East Midlands Railway (EMR) has installed a new 27-metre piece of artwork at the station for passengers to enjoy as they visit and travel through it.
The artwork is located on platform 2 and was inspired by the Poacher Line, which runs from the bustling city of Nottingham through to the seaside town of Skegness.
Artist Alisha Miller spent several months travelling the line chatting with passengers, conductors and rail staff, which helped her build up a picture of this eclectic railway line.
Jo Andrews, community rail officer for the Poacher Line said: “This impressive installation showcases the diversity of the Poacher Line and highlights the importance of the railway in connecting communities.
“Over the next two years Boston station will see major redevelopment and this artwork is the first of many improvements which will enhance the station and will be enjoyed by those passing through for many years to come.”
Donna Adams, community engagement manager for EMR said: “Railways have always played a vital role within local communities and they become better gateways when communities are engaged in making them more welcoming for passengers and visitors.”
Paul Webster, community rail support manager for Community Rail Network said: “Every railway station has a story to tell and this magnificent artwork certainly tells both the story of Boston and of the whole Poacher Line, one of 72 community rail lines across the railway network.
“There is so much to see on this scenic community rail line and this artwork adds an extra dimension.”