Boston set for major boost
This historic market town is looking forward to exciting regeneration plans with the aim to drive growth and attract investment, as Melanie Burton reports.
Recently awarded nearly £15 million Levelling Up money to kick-start regeneration and secure further investment to the heart of the town centre, Boston has also been selected to become one of the new Levelling Up partnerships which aim to drive growth, unlock barriers to attract inward investment and receive bespoke help based on local needs.
Following the £21.9 million it secured in 2021 also for regeneration projects, there are improvement works planned to be carried out this year to bring a new lease of life to businesses in the area.
There are also plans to transform the town’s railway station and a new public park – spanning the area between the river and the Len Medlock Centre – will be created to provide a new place for people to enjoy.
New green spaces, improved pedestrian routes, artwork and other features seek to create an inviting, safe, accessible and enjoyable place for all, as well as offering significant environmental enhancements.
The Levelling Up Fund is specifically designed to secure capital investment in infrastructure that has the potential to improve lives and give people pride in their communities.
Boston’s Rosegarth Square masterplan, forming part of PE21, seeks to revitalise and repurpose the area between the River Witham and the bus station – particularly focusing on the area of the former Dunelm/B&M building and the vacant Crown House building.
In addition, works to convert Crown House to provide a mix of residential and other uses to support young people and families will see this building visually improved and positively enhance its presence.
In conjunction with the proposed works, a programme of community engagement will be undertaken, including a linked archaeology project, to better understand the history of the site, influence the emerging designs, and link the area’s past to its future.
It is hoped the scheme will revitalise this large brownfield site and act as a catalyst for further positive inward investment and the regeneration ambition for the area.
The aim is to change the character and appearance of the area, create opportunities for new uses and homes, create jobs, support the economy and the community, and create a place where people want to live, work and enjoy.
Councillor Nigel Welton, deputy leader and portfolio holder for economic growth at Boston Borough Council said: “This is another great example of the public and private sector working together to help bring investment into Boston.
“This forward-thinking council is focussed on doing all it can to help improve the economy, create new job opportunities and install a sense of pride for residents in the town.
“It is an ambitious scheme which we hope will bring real change for Boston for future generations. We want to continually improve the town and help to raise aspirations and this investment will play a key role in that.”
TOWN DEAL FUNDING
The funding announcement comes as several regeneration and improvement projects start to take shape in the town following Town Deal funding from the government, also part of the Levelling Up agenda.
Historic shopfronts are being renovated as part of plans to attract more investment and work is set to begin this summer on a major upgrade of Boston’s railway station, as well as other projects to transform health, wellbeing and education through the Boston Leisure and Mayflower projects.
MP for Boston and Skegness, Matt Warman said the government had backed the council’s ambitious vision for the town and awarded major funding that many other towns were also bidding for.
“The success of Boston Borough Council in securing their full £14.8 million bid in the face of stiff competition across the UK demonstrates the transformative quality of this comprehensive plan to regenerate a currently neglected and run-down part of our town in a sustainable way.
“Linking with improvements made within the £21.9 million Boston Town Deal, residents and visitors to Boston will see their route through the town renewed with both new high quality building projects and sympathetic renovation and reinstatement of historic features.’’
The council hopes this investment will unlock further opportunities in this area to deliver homes, health facilities and new employment spaces.
Works to carry out the public realm improvement scheme on Dolphin Lane, Boston, are due to start in the middle of this month (May) and last until late October.
Funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, Lincolnshire County Council and Boston Town Deal, the scheme aims to create a consistent appearance between Dolphin Lane and the Market Place.
Councillor Richard Davies, executive member for highways at Lincolnshire County Council, said: “This project will not only help create a more attractive retail environment in Boston, but will also hopefully lead to higher footfall for the businesses situated on Dolphin Lane, thanks to better links with Market Place.
“As part of the works, we’ll be improving the heritage ambience in the area by replacing the current bricks and concrete slabs with roughly 3,500 aesthetically-pleasing York stone setts. We’ll also be taking the opportunity to improve the general ambience here by fixing the bollards and replacing the old bench, bin and cycle stands with new.
“When complete, these improvements will give Dolphin Lane and all its businesses a new lease of life.”
Neil Kempster, chair of Boston Town Deal, said: “Through the Towns Fund investment, we have the opportunity to bring significant improvements for the town centre, ensuring an even better experience for all who visit.
“The works on Dolphin Lane will play an important role in enhancing and adding to the town centre’s appeal, which will ultimately help to bring people into Boston.”
HISTORY OF FOOD PRODUCTION
The district has 35,000 jobs and 2,295 businesses and it is blessed with some of the most fertile land in the UK.
Boston has a long history of food production, which is seen as a major growth area. The agri-food sector is the bedrock of the local economy, with 29 per cent of jobs compared to just four per cent nationally and the town is home to major national and international food businesses, with Bakkavor and Greencore among the big names.
The agri-food sector also supports significant machinery and equipment manufacturing, research, cold storage, packaging, labelling and logistics supply chains, with companies including Port of Boston, Fountain Plants, Turners Distribution, T&B Containers and Mastenbroek.
billion to the region’s gross domestic product – the value of goods produced and services provided annually. However, analysis by the Eastern Powerhouse finds that “the town could go much further with the right conditions for growth”.
The report stated: “Boston is a place which has the potential for strong sustainable growth. But as with many other small coastal towns, it has some challenges. These issues include low skill levels, housing affordability problems and considerable health inequalities. If Boston is to achieve its ambition to grow the economy, it will need to level up outcomes for the resident population while continuing to attract talent from outside the region.”
Each winner will be awarded with prizes and get the opportunity to meet with fellow winners and nominees with whom they can share their experiences.
Councillor Martin Griggs, portfolio holder for housing and communities, said: “This is about celebrating Boston’s unsung heroes, from selfless acts of kindness to volunteering efforts and charity fundraising.
“The nominations that came in all had their own special touch and were fantastic examples of the way our community always come together for each other.”
STATION SET FOR TRANSFORMATION
Work on a £2.8 million upgrade to Boston railway station is set to begin this summer.
The improvement works will see the station get a new community café and bookable community space, improved toilet facilities, two new start-up offices and customer waiting facilities.
There will also be external improvements including improved signs to help people find their way, better accessibility and mechanical and electrical enhancements with upgraded heating, ventilation, IT and security systems.
East Midlands Railways said it has been in consultation with Boston Town Deal, the borough council, and The Railway Heritage Trust, plus Sustrans and The Lincolnshire Community and Voluntary Service and Accessibility Panels, to ‘ensure the vision of the railway station was shaped by the local community’.
Leader of Boston Borough Council, Paul Skinner, said: “For many visitors, their first impression of Boston starts when they arrive at the station, so it is vitally important they have a good experience.”
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Photographs: Mick Fox