Enterprise will lead town recovery

Words by:
Melanie Burton
Featured in:
January 2022

Sleaford is leading by example, with funding in place for an environmental enterprise park, ongoing work to revamp historic buildings and support for the local arts scene. By Melanie Burton.

Much work has been done during the past year to ensure the town is ready when the pandemic finally abates and if all goes according to plan 2022 should be a good year.

Plans for a new eco-conscious enterprise park are progressing well with contracts worth £10.5 million for phase one of the project being offered to two Lincolnshire firms.

North Kesteven District Council is creating the £56 million Sleaford Moor Enterprise Park on land off Pride Parkway to provide the space businesses need to grow, unlocking new opportunities for the area’s economy and communities including the potential for up to 500 jobs.

The council also intends for the enterprise park to lead by example with various energy efficiency and environmentally conscious measures in place throughout.

Units on the site will benefit from various features including solar panels, energy efficient insulation and electric vehicle charging points or shelters.

Meanwhile, features around them on the site will include native tree and self-watering planting areas sculpted to use rainwater, hedging and a wildflower meadow to support pollinators.

Provision would be made for other wildlife too with bat and bird boxes, hedgehog homes and also log piles for reptiles and insects.

Smith Construction based in Heckington has won the circa £8.5 million main build and construction contract to deliver phase one of the enterprise park, which consists of nine business units in one plot and six grow-on units in another plot.

This contract won by Smith Construction also includes the strategic infrastructure and construction works on the site including the civils and spine road construction.

Harlaxton Engineering based in Grantham has won a contract of circa £2 million to deliver the site-wide utilities connections, which will allow businesses to operate from the enterprise park once built and operational. Work behind the scenes to deliver this has already begun.

North Kesteven District Council Leader Councillor Richard Wright said: “We are proud to bring them both on board and we hope the park will be complete by the end of 2023.

“Meanwhile we’re continuing to respond to a range of enquiries from businesses interested in Sleaford Moor Enterprise Park and the units available, and this is certainly something to be proud of too.

“This substantial interest in the park – despite the fact we remain in the midst of a pandemic – is proof in hand that North Kesteven is a wonderful place to live, work and invest in.”

Managing director of Smith Construction, Ken Smith, said: “Smith Construction, as a locally based company, is both pleased and proud to have secured this prestigious contract.

“It is good to see projects benefiting and boosting the local community by using local labour and new apprentices.”

Lucy Mair, managing director of Harlaxton Engineering Services Ltd, said: “It is exciting to play a major role in developing and servicing such a high-profile employment site and as a local company and employer, to be working in partnership with the council to deliver a successful project.”

Banks Long and Co is marketing agent for the site. Director William Wall said: “We are delighted to see this exciting project move onto the next phase, with two local companies being awarded contracts. We have already received substantial interest in this unique eco-friendly development, and as construction starts we only expect this to grow.”

Work has also been done on trying to improve traffic flow through the town with the development of a transport strategy which is expected to be completed by the summer.

Residents and those who regularly travel through Sleaford were encouraged to have their say on what the town’s transport network will look like over the next 20 years through drop-in sessions and an online survey.

Sleaford has historically constituted an important part of Lincolnshire’s trade, and as such, has always had a vital need for solid transport links.

The transport strategy is designed to not only drive economic growth in the town, but also improve accessibility and help mitigate any impacts associated with future housing and commercial developments.

Councillor Davies, who is also Executive Member of Lincolnshire County Council’s Highways, said: “Sleaford is one of the county’s most important market towns, which is why one of our focuses over the past two years has been on making it quicker, easier and safer to get into and around town.

“Not only did we give the A17/A153 rugby club junction a complete overhaul last year, but also made improvements at Holdingham Roundabout and we wanted to know how else we could improve travel and transport in Sleaford.”

The major improvement works at Holdingham Roundabout included new approach lanes and the installation of traffic lights.

Councillor Davies added: “The improvements will help relieve congestion and improve air quality, which is vital for our local environment and our own health, while also saving time for those visiting Sleaford and the many vibrant local high streets and centres in our district for shopping and leisure.

“This investment also boosts the potential of the district and local economy by providing the high-quality road network needed to support opportunities for economic growth and new jobs, including at our new Sleaford Moor Enterprise Park.”

Attracting visitors to the area is key to a thriving retail sector and much work has also been done to help improve the town visually including the installation of a series of mosaics displaying Sleaford’s most iconic landmarks.

Created by Sleaford-based art group MosArt during lockdown, the mosaics line the newly painted entrance to the historic Gladstone Yard. They depict a range of landmarks that make up the town’s skyline including the spire of St Denys’ Church and the Bass Maltings, to the William Alvey primary school and the marketplace.

The group worked on the mosaics in the town hall during the first lockdown, completing them in June 2020. They were finally installed in November 2021.

MosArt has also worked on other mosaics which are displayed around the town including the Les Gostick memorial outside Sleaford Museum on Southgate and the riverside bench behind the Hub on Navigation Wharf.

Plans have also taken shape for a £135,000 revamp at Sleaford railway station to return it to its former glory. The dilapidated waiting room and toilets, which have been out of use for a long time, are being converted into ‘community’ rooms as part of a rejuvenation project by the Poachers Line community rail partnership.

The waiting room will become a “flexible space” that the partnership hopes to use for educating primary school children on rail safety and travel, as well as for community art projects, meetings, and pop-up workshops.

The partnership already gives talks on rail safety in schools, but it hopes to expand what they can cover by offering interactive sessions for children, teaching them how to buy tickets and stay safe at the station.

The Grade ll-listed station will also be repainted to match the original green and cream colour scheme from when it first opened back in the 1850s.

The project has been made possible by funding from East Midlands Railway, the Community Rail Network, and the Railway Heritage Trust, who recently donated £53,000 towards the project.

Notable new and improved building projects completed in the past year in the area have been recognised through the Sleaford Civic Trust awards.

The trust’s members judged new build, extension or renovation projects that they saw as having added value to the character of the town which all helps to improve the appearance and overall visitor experience.

Special plaques to be displayed on the outer walls of the buildings are presented to the winners, which included Sleaford Islamic Centre on Station Road for the committee’s conversion of an old disused warehouse and yard to become the town’s first mosque.

David Marriage of the Civic Trust said it had been an “unsightly area” which met visitors to Sleaford by train.

A second award was given to Ruskington’s JCO Developments, trading for 20 years as Wilcox Homes, for their work on creating a terrace of six town centre homes on Handley Street, on the site of disused former offices and a derelict building behind.

Managing director Robert Wilcox and architect Malcolm Curt of DBL Architectural Design aimed to improve the street appearance as well as providing affordable homes in the town centre.

Rob Wilcox said the award was unexpected, adding that they always try to use local tradespeople and suppliers.

Despite this, he said the logistics of working on a tight, town centre site had been tricky.

The Civic Trust has also given a Mess of the Year award to the old Post Office close to the Handley Monument on Southgate, but understands that the owners are actively working to improve the appearance.

Joanna Carr, of London-based property owners Telereal Trillium, confirmed they were in the process of undertaking a refurbishment of the building following the previous tenant’s vacation.

The Civic Trust is involved in many projects including the Sleaford Castle project in support of the Sleaford Castle Heritage Group, which gathered a mass of information and consolidated it into two reports, one of which was a comprehensive three-part report to Sleaford Town Council, which owns the castle, outlining progress and proposals for the future.

The introduction to the report to the town council said: ‘If there is a single site capable of drawing visitors to Sleaford, the Castle Field is.

‘The site is currently undervalued and under-used. Few towns have such a large area of green, river-sided archaeology so near their centre.

‘The site should provide an open green area for the town and information on the castle’s history and importance in the region for townspeople and tourists.’

Another plan to attract visitors to the town and give the Sleaford community something to look forward to this year is the Sleaford Festival, which will be a major public event backed by the Government’s Welcome Back Fund.

Sleaford Hub, the town’s arts centre which underwent a major £1.2m refurbishment following the merger of the National Centre for Craft & Design and artsNK, is working with North Kesteven District Council to deliver the major public event in the spring.

It is being described as a celebration of creativity and culture across the town, bringing people back to the high street, to public spaces and helping Sleaford to “build back better” from the pandemic.

The Welcome Back Fund is providing councils across England a share of £56 million from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) to support the safe return to high streets and help town centres recover from the pandemic.

It is hoped the Sleaford Festival will be a town-wide celebration event and the public were invited to work with the Hub and NKDC to make it an event to remember.

Marketing co-ordinator at the Hub, Mark Bowery, said: “We didn’t want to dictate what happens at the festival, we wanted people to contribute to it and have a say on what happens.

“We want as many people to get involved, and for it to be for the people of North Kesteven. The hope is that it will get people back on the high street, and back outside and interacting with cultural activities.”
Planning is at an early stage but an open forum was held in November 2021 for the community to give their views.

Dan Sumpton, who used to organise the Grimsthorpe Festival, is now working on the Sleaford Festival. He said the early signs for the festival were strong with a number of ideas including music, dance and circus act trails to follow, town events where shops and spaces can host events, a weekend of live music and refreshments and a cultural festival.

In a picturesque setting by the River Slea, Cogglesford Watermill is thought to be the only Sheriff’s watermill still operating in England, and millers have produced flour on this site for over a thousand years.

The mill reopened in November 2021 after almost a year of being closed to the public – behind the scenes there’s been lots happening…

North Kesteven District Council invested £30,500 to fund repairs to the waterwheel after issues with the wheel had been identified and the decision taken to cease use. The works have seen the waterwheel carefully repaired and restored by local Sleaford firm RH Displays and Exhibitions, safeguarding it for future generations to see and enjoy as part of the site’s authentic milling experience.

Any of the wheel’s paddles that could not be used in the restoration were repurposed throughout the mill in the furniture and displays, making the interior of the building as beautiful and historic as the exterior!

To keep the wheel in tip-top shape, the millers at Cogglesford will be turning it weekly, keeping moisture in the wood and preventing further damage; the weekly wheel turning schedules will be posted on the Cogglesford Watermill website and social media channels.

Stone-ground flour produced in the mill is sold in the shop together with locally sourced produce and goods, making the retail space the perfect place to drop in for gifts and local food items. You can also enjoy the riverside setting with a cold drink or ice cream during the summer months, or a hot drink and a cake inside during the chilly winter.

Monthly milling days are held on the second Sunday of every month, a great chance to see the mill really come to life; the millers demonstrate the milling process and machinery, and you can enjoy a treat fresh from the oven, made by Cogglesford’s fantastic volunteers with the stone-ground flour produced on site.

New for 2022, you can now book a Milling Experience for up to four people; here you can learn the whole process of milling the traditional way, with hands-on training from the experienced millers.

Cogglesford Watermill is open Friday to Monday, 12noon-4pm. For more information or to book a milling experience please email cogglesfordwatermill@n-kesteven.gov.uk, or visit

Ideally located close to Sleaford’s railway station, amenities and shops, The Carre Arms Hotel & Restaurant is a warm and welcoming family owned and run venue that provides excellent service together with home cooked dishes featuring quality fresh ingredients, much of which is locally sourced.

With 13 ensuite individually appointed bedrooms and conference facilities, this is a perfect choice for wedding receptions, civil ceremonies, parties, private dining and business meetings, as well as superb Sunday lunches and informal meals in the brasserie and bar, complemented by CAMRA real ales and an excellent wine cellar.

For more than 25 years, The Carre Arms Hotel & Restaurant has become renowned locally as a quality venue offering excellent value for guests in search of home comfort with a personal touch. Here you will find delicious daily lunch and dinner menus featuring an eclectic mix of modern English, classic French and a pinch of Spanish, with afternoon cream tea served in the beautiful Victorian conservatory.

For more information visit www.carrearmshotel.co.uk

Lincolnshire is well renowned for its long-standing agricultural heritage. Unsurprising when you consider that a large proportion of the county is made up of acres upon acres of rich, rolling farmland.

It is no surprise then that our region produces around an eighth of the UK’s total food and is famed for supplying some of the finest fare this country has to offer.

To recognise the fantastic quality available on our doorstep, a recently re-opened restaurant near Sleaford is dedicating its business to showcasing the very best of locally sourced cuisine with their impressive À La Carte restaurant and bar menus.

Erin Taylor, owner of The Queens Head, Kirkby-La-Thorpe is extremely passionate about using local produce wherever possible. Not only because of its quality and health benefits but also following the recent challenges this country has faced, she is very eager to support farmers, their communities, and the local economy.

Together with her chef, the very clever and talented Barry Liversidge, they are working hard to bring customers delicious seasonal dishes using the freshest ingredients with the least amount of food miles.

Erin and Barry are incredibly proud to source local meat such as succulent pork from Corner Farm in Helpringham, only three food miles away; entirely grass-fed beef from Ewerby Thorpe Farm, just two miles from the restaurant; and award-winning Gelston Lamb, which Barry uses to create the most exquisite dishes.

The recently refurbished venue is the ideal location for any occasion. If you’re just passing by and want a tasty meal or looking for an exceptional venue for that extra special treat, The Queens Head caters for all.

Recently awarded Gold Citations in the Lincolnshire Life Taste of Excellence Awards, the team are exceptionally proud of what they have achieved so far in such a short time and are now keener than ever to keep pushing forward to bigger and better things.

For more information and their mouth-watering menus, visit the website www.thequeensheadpub.com or for the latest updates and food pictures why not follow their Twitter feeds @QueensKirkby @LiversidgeBaz #local #eatlocal #farmtofork

If you love the flavours, foods and spices of South East Asia, Makan Bites is a specialist Lincolnshire based online retailer and wholesaler which supplies branded products to customers in search of authentic ingredients.

Launched as a “kitchen table” enterprise just a year ago, here you will find an excellent selection of favourite quality brands from Malaysia and Southeast Asia with more than 200 products on offer, including noodles, curry pastes, cooking sauces and spices, as well as snacks, rice and marinades, plus a vegetarian selection.

Makan Bites (which translates as “eats, nibbles and bites”) recently moved into a 1,000ft warehouse in Sleaford, employing its first staff through the UK Government’s Kickstart Scheme, and has already established itself as a leading niche e-commerce retailer, boasting more than 3,000 followers on its social media platforms.

For more information visit www.makanbites.co.uk

Photographs: Mick Fox

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