Fresh ideas benefit town
Already regarded as a Fenland treasure, the south Lincolnshire town of Spalding is set to be at the heart of the new ‘Kitchen of England’.
The Spalding & District Chamber of Commerce has just produced a report to illustrate how South Holland is the best place in the United Kingdom to operate a fresh produce business, both in terms of practicality and cost effectiveness.
It has made a comparison between the county of Kent, which is known as the old ‘Garden of England’, and South Holland which is fast becoming the new ‘Kitchen of England’.
Chamber president Phil Scarlett said: “South Holland is already recognised as the natural centre for food, having the Lincolnshire University campus for food based just outside Spalding to develop all aspects of the UK food industry.
“Current developments include a large international HGV park to accommodate growth in direct haulage deliveries, a new conference centre and produce park and 7,000 new homes plus school to provide additional local labour.
“Anecdotal evidence suggests some thirty-five per cent of the nation’s food will touch the South Holland district and thirty-seven per cent of fresh produce is dispatched from the area to UK customers.”
Though the inbound delivery costs to Kent are cheaper because of its close proximity to the main points of entry from Europe, according to the Chamber’s report, that is where the savings end.
“All associated produce companies, suppliers, packaging, agency staff and transport are all in a circa five-mile radius of each other keeping associated add-on costs to a minimum,” said Phil.
“Food manufacturing is thirteen times more significant as an employer in the district than the national average and transport and warehousing also shows up as twice the national average.
“Land, housing and building costs are all much cheaper here, reducing depreciation on capital investment for warehousing and processing facilities plus available affordable housing for the workforce.”
In addition South Holland is much cheaper than Kent in terms of salaries, wages and agency rates.
“Average gross weekly pay in South Holland is £469 against a national average of £520 (10.8 per cent),” said Phil.
“Another of its strongest assets is its readily available and flexible workforce which complements the 24/7 working pattern that today’s manufacturing and supply to customers requires.”
In support, the Spalding and Peterborough Transport Forum is also working hard behind the scenes to improve infrastructure and transport links in the area, in order to compete with neighbouring places such as Sleaford and Lincoln which are constantly expanding.
Forum chair George Scott said: “It is a very important link to get a proper transport infrastructure in place. Transport is linked to business quite radically. If you haven’t got the transport you don’t get the workers to work, so it affects the economic position of Spalding.
“There are plans for 2,500 houses to be built in the next three or four years so there are a lot of people going to be moving into the area. It is very important therefore to get a proper transport infrastructure.”
That said, “Spalding is holding its own,” according to the town centre manager Dennis Hannant, who has just marked a year in the post.
“With less than twelve retail units across the town, anecdotal evidence suggests that the retail situation in the town is more or less the same as the last two years for most, but improving marginally for some,” he said.
This, he believes, is due to the high levels of employment in Spalding and South Holland generally, that boasts an unemployment figure of only just under 500 for the whole district.
“Extremely well-paid jobs in the food processing and haulage industries maintain an economic buoyancy, which sustains the retail sector and has shown growth in other areas, especially the hairdressing, beauty and wellbeing sector,” said Dennis.
One such business called Barberettes has only just opened a few metres from Dennis’s office in Broad Street.
Joint owners Natalie Broome and Julie Johnson are passionate barbers and are experienced in running a business, having previously had a shop in neighbouring Holbeach.
Natalie said they offer a traditional gentlemen’s barbers, in a relaxed and comfortable environment providing haircuts, hot towel wet shaves, ear hair burning and even nose waxing.
“Our customers love being pampered and men generally like to look smart and feel good,” said Natalie.
“The response to the new business in Spalding has been excellent during these first few weeks and we are even getting a large number of our former customers coming over from Holbeach.”
A historical market town, Spalding’s Market Traders have recently founded a local branch of the Market Traders’ Federation (MTF), which aims to improve the Tuesday and Saturday offer and to assist the town centre with special promotions and events.
Dennis is in no doubt that the twice weekly market is vital for the economic success of the town centre.
“The town is very lucky to have a thriving market and MTF’s efforts to improve the market offer and assist with events and promotions can only make the town centre even more successful,” he said.
Spalding, like many south Lincolnshire towns, is aiming to improve its tourism image and whilst people may not consider coming to the town for a two-week holiday, it could be part of a wider visit to South Holland and or Greater Lincolnshire.
The Chain Bridge Forge, which is a living museum, with a fully working coal-fired forge and manned by a qualified young blacksmith, has recently been added to the list of local attractions. Others include: Ayscoughfee Hall Museum and Gardens, The South Holland Centre, Crowland Abbey, Moulton Windmill and the Springfields Outlet Shopping Centre and Festival Gardens, that annually attracts more than 2.6 million visitors.
Having been in the role for just over a year, Dennis has been working hard to establish a number of keynote events in the town including The Spalding and South Holland Festival of Food and Drink.
“Considering South Holland either grows or processes more than forty per cent of the nation’s food, it is important to exhibit local food producers and their products,” he said.
Last year’s Food Festival attracted well over fifty stallholders and nearly 2,000 visitors which, for a first year, was considered extremely successful.
Dennis said enticing exhibitors to Spalding has been difficult due to the fact it is a new event, and the footfall is only moderate.
“However the fees structure is and will remain good value for money and traders should give it a try. The aim is to build on the festival year on year in order that it becomes a big attraction to the town.”
The Food Festival this year is to be held over the weekend of 9th and 10th July and it will be located in the Vista community centre and surrounding area.
Business is thriving at Springfields Outlet Shopping which is regarded as the East Midlands region’s premier retail and leisure destination.
The centre already attracts more than 2.3 million visitors per year alone, from up to ninety minutes away, and the additional footfall created by the arrival of Next and other new stores such as Craghoppers, a new Home and Garden Centre and a refurbished Noshery restaurant, is benefitting not only Springfields and Spalding but also the entire South Holland district.
The scheme’s results have been driven by Ian Sanderson, who originally developed the scheme in 2004 and now runs the centre on behalf of the owners UBS Triton Property Fund, with JLL as the managing agents.
Not only that, the great retail experience is complemented by more than twenty-five acres of beautiful Festival Gardens which are open and free to visitors.
SPRINGFIELDS: TOP RETAIL AND LEISURE DESTINATION
Covering over forty-five acres, the £30 million scheme has many original and impressive attributes, culminating in one of the most stylish shopping environments in the UK.
There are more than fifty big name outlet stores to browse, offering up to 75% off normal retail prices; but Springfields offers so much more, including fantastic food, free Wi-Fi, plenty of car parking, award-winning Festival Gardens and endless opportunities for family fun.
If shopping’s your thing, there’s plenty to keep you occupied with great outlet stores such as M&S, Gap, Radley, Hallmark, Game and Bench. New additions include a Next outlet with great fashion for all the family, a new plush Blue Diamond Garden Centre with stunning restaurant, and Craghoppers.
Take time to explore the relaxing environment by stopping off at a mouthwatering choice of cafes and restaurants. Call into the opulent surroundings of the new Noshery restaurant in the newly refurbished Home and Garden Centre for a traditional cream tea or your choice or fresh and tasty home cooked seasonal dishes. For a quick pitstop head to Costa Coffee or make a night of it with supper and drinks at The Kitchen, or Frankie and Benny’s.
Springfields’ famous Festival Gardens opened in 1966 as the show window for the flower bulb industry. They now include celebrity designed gardens by Kim Wilde, Charlie Dimmock and Chris Beardshaw, and many more. Wander around twenty-five acres of beautifully landscaped lawns for free with exciting sculptures, dazzling water features and of course tulips (in spring!). The Display Fountains combine music and water for wonderful shows too.
There’s plenty of outdoor space for visitors young and old to enjoy, including a miniature railway, land train, outdoor play area and Jurassic Golf.
Springfields also has its very own Events & Conference Centre consisting of three multi-functional exhibition and seminar rooms with five-acre showground, all with free parking.
Available for hire throughout the year Springfields can accommodate conferences for up to 700 delegates, formal dinners and balls for up to 600 guests. The indoor Marquee Suite is licenced for Civil Marriages, with a wide and varied menu prepared on site to suit every need.
J F INKLEY
J F Inkley, situated on the corner of The Crescent in Spalding, is a traditional gentlemen’s outfitters. A family favourite, J F Inkley provides the ultimate in quality, service and choice for the discerning gentleman.
The business was started by Jim Inkley in 1960 and since his death it has been continued by his son, Andrew Inkley and his wife Heather alongside his mother.
The shop is brimming with quality suits which are displayed in various fabrics to suit each season, with the perfect accessories available to complement any style. Although the focus lies with tradition, you will still find the latest styles available.
Although times have changed since the shop welcomed its first customer many years ago, the call for a well-made, quality suit is still apparent. Andrew and his wife pride themselves on offering a personal service which has ensured a steady customer base.
They have also never wavered from traditional British names, which have stood them in good stead, with many gentlemen now choosing these names as a preference.
For personal service, and a shop where the customer is king, J F Inkley is well worth a visit.