Lower toll boosts visitor numbers

Dining Out

Words by:
Melanie Burton
Featured in:
August 2012

The severe wet weather experienced across Lincolnshire in the past few weeks has put added pressure on businesses and retailers but more shoppers are coming into Scunthorpe.
But it doesn’t seem to have dampened the spirits of the business community in the North Lincolnshire town of Scunthorpe. Their outlook on the area’s current economic situation is that it is more gloom than doom and they remain upbeat about the future.

Though one of their biggest battles is competing against out-of-town retail parks and Internet shopping, a number of developments happening within the town centre itself, a variety of schemes on the go to create local jobs, and an influx of new retailers and businesses, means that Scunthorpe still has much to offer commuters, shoppers and visitors alike.

The Parishes Shopping Centre manager, Tony Pickering said the year had started off very slowly because of the recession, but from May onwards there has been good footfall into the centre and trade figures have revived.

He said: “While nationally footfall is down in town and city centres, our trade figures are up. There are not as many people around, but those that are are spending money and our reported retail figures have been very good and very strong.

“The weather has had a lot to do with keeping people from the town centre and driving them to retail parks and indoor shopping centres. But we are still maintaining constant footfall, Monday through to Thursday, and the past few weekends have been good.”

The Parishes, located in Fenton Street in the heart of Scunthorpe, does much to attract more visitors to the area by hosting street activities and entertainment.

“We are doing all we can to attract the public to the centre. We frequently have entertainment and street activities on at a weekend and we are working in partnership with other businesses to encourage the council to look at car parking within the town centre,” said Mr Pickering.

“Car parking is a major issue. At out-of-town retail parks, you don’t have to pay to park so it’s the principle of car parking charges rather than the cost of parking that is the issue.”

North Lincolnshire Council has introduced one-hour free parking in three town car parks and is looking to extend that.

“The fees aren’t too bad in Scunthorpe if you look at elsewhere nationally, but the council can do more to help support the businesses in the town,” added Mr Pickering.

That said, the centre is doing well and is expecting to welcome three new tenants in the near future.

“It means we will be ninety-five per cent occupied by the middle of August which is fantastic for us. One client has just upgraded from one of our kiosks to a unit because he is doing so well and we are still attracting the spending public and new customers from across the region,” said Mr Pickering.

The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations were a big boost to Scunthorpe’s local economy with plenty of street entertainment bringing in the crowds.

“We had a fantastic period over the Diamond Jubilee weekend with a lot of activities which led to very good footfall,” said Mr Pickering. “But the fashion side of retail has really suffered because we haven’t had a period of spring going into summer and people aren’t buying summer clothes. So we need the appearance of a late summer to improve the situation.”

The picture is much the same at the town’s Foundry Shopping Centre. Centre manager, Peter Golightly said: “This year’s events have been fantastic to give support to our town centre and they also benefited the shops in the centre.

“To mark key dates for Scunthorpe we hold events and, in particular for the Jubilee celebrations, we worked in partnership with the local council and The Parishes Shopping Centre to offer entertainment to the community.

“In terms of upcoming developments, this half of the year is always exciting for us with the summer holiday excitement for which we are putting on some great events. We also start to plan our annual Christmas event, ‘Light Up A Life’, and we look forward to the results of the town’s second round of the Portas Pilot Bid.”

North Lincolnshire Council has also played its part in trying to attract more visitors and shoppers to the town. Tourism and town centre manager, Christine Edwards said: “Earlier in the year we introduced one hour’s free car parking in three of the short stay car parks in the town centre which has been really popular with shoppers. 

“We are currently investing £150,000 to improve Scunthorpe Market and create ninety new car parking spaces in the town centre. We recognise that markets play a major role in creating vibrant town centres and we are working with market traders to bring new life into the markets.

“Over the summer we held promotions at local and regional shows, encouraging people away from the supermarket for their shop and back onto the high street. 

“This has been successful and traders are reporting increased numbers of shoppers using the markets for their weekly meat, fruit and vegetable shop.”

The improvements follow on from the successful works undertaken last year to refurbish part of the Old Market Hall, creating new units to let and an entertainment area – The Podium – in the centre of the market hall.

“The Podium is now the setting for regular antique and collectibles markets, family entertainment and can be booked for product launches,” said Christine.

“The recently refurbished Church Square will be the setting for new speciality markets, with vintage fairs and continental markets already booked in for the autumn and spring.”  

Further consideration is also being given to how Scunthorpe town centre can develop and prosper for the future and how businesses can work with the council to help promote and improve the town centre’s offer to encourage new investment and visitors to the town. Scunthorpe will be represented at the British Council for Shopping Centres Exhibition in September to promote the town to the retail sector as a place to relocate.

On a wider business perspective, £10m of the Government’s Regional Growth Fund monies has been secured to help industrial businesses create 500 new jobs through business grants across North Lincolnshire including Scunthorpe.

“Its aim is to help grow the economy and the key priorities will be to create new businesses, support the expansion, rationalisation, modernisation and diversification of existing business within North Lincolnshire and to encourage new companies to locate to the area,” a spokesman said.

Daryl Birden is chairman of the North Lincolnshire branch of the Hull and Humber Chamber of Commerce which covers the Scunthorpe area. Mr Birden said it had been instrumental in a number of regional developments over the past couple of years, which have impacted on the town in a positive way.

“Two of our main achievements are the campaign to reduce tolls over the Humber Bridge and the creation of the Humber Local Enterprise Partnership,” he said. “Over a number of years we put forward a business case for reducing the bridge tolls and we were very pleased when we finally achieved that earlier this year.

“The reduction in tolls encourages an influx of people and goods across the Humber and increases trade between both sides of the river.”

The creation of the Humber Local Enterprise Partnership led to the creation of enterprise zones.

“The LEP is the only one in the country led by the private sector and it was spearheaded by the chamber,” explained Mr Birden who is sales director of Singleton Birch Ltd – the UK’s leading independent lime manufacturer. “We have five enterprise zones in the region and one is the Able Marine Energy Park which is going to be used for renewable energy applications. That should be engineering based and will create a number of jobs. It is something the Chamber is proud to have been involved in. Both have a positive impact on the area.”

The Able Marine Energy Park planning application for the South Humber Bank is currently being considered by the council’s National Infrastructure Directorate. If approved, it could see the area become a major player in the manufacture of wind turbines for the offshore wind industry and create significant job opportunities and socio-economic benefits for both Scunthorpe and the wider North Lincolnshire.

It is Europe’s largest planned offshore wind park and the location of the UK’s largest Enterprise Zone (248 hectares) and it could see the creation of more than 5,000 new jobs by 2015.

Lincolnshire was one of the first areas in England to be given approval to set up a Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP). Since then things have developed quickly and the Greater Lincolnshire Local Enterprise Partnership now encompasses Lincolnshire, North and North East Lincolnshire and covers a geographical area from the Humber to the Wash. The Greater Lincolnshire Local Enterprise Partnership together with the Humberside Local Enterprise Partnership have got behind the campaign to bring superfast broadband to the area.

It follows moves by North Lincolnshire Council to get 5,000 residents and 500 businesses to register their support for the campaign which would help attract more business to the region and create jobs.

Scunthorpe has much to offer the discerning visitor, whether they are interested in shopping, leisure or art.

A new local history gallery opened at the town’s North Lincolnshire Museum in May. It houses an exhibition which explores the development of the area from the early 1800s all the way up to the outbreak of World War Two. 

You can discover how parts of the region were transformed from rural communities to thriving urban hubs and what such changes meant for the lives of local people.

The museum has just had a new 1950s-themed cafe opened in the courtyard. It is decorated with photographs of 1950s Scunthorpe and has a jukebox packed with rock’n’roll hits.

Then there is The Baths Hall entertainment venue which opened last November. It boasts a whole programme of shows and events which are normally well supported and do much to bring more visitors to the town.

Now a giant inflatable sculpture, one of the largest sculptures of its kind in the UK, is an unmissable addition to the Scunthorpe town centre skyline. Located in the courtyard at the 20-21 Visual Arts Centre in Scunthorpe until 11th August and measuring over thirty feet in height, the figure is a sculpture by award-winning artist Simon Mckeown.

Part of his Motion Disabled Unlimited exhibition and created using body mapping technology, the work is based on 3D computer models of disabled actor and performer, Matt Fraser. It aims to challenge how disabled people are represented in culture and the media. It was produced as part of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad programme in Yorkshire and Humber.

Simon, who is himself disabled, wants to change the way disabled people are represented in our culture.

“There is still a cultural taboo around disability which is a big issue in the UK. Around twenty per cent of the population will, at some point in their life, be identified as disabled, but still disabled people are not visible enough in our culture and on television – I want to change that,” he said.

“Disability is unique, an exciting part of the fabric of our society, and Motion Disabled Unlimited is a chance to see, without embarrassment, the way people with disabilities use their bodies in sport and day-to-day life.”

While other UK towns and cities are suffering from lost businesses and shop closures, Scunthorpe seems to be bucking the trend.

It has seen a number of new firms created, existing businesses expand and a variety of shops opened, proving that outside confidence in the town is running high.

M&S has indicated its intention to locate a 50,000 sq ft store in the town and Debenhams has also announced its interest in a 40,000 sq ft unit at a planned retail park on Doncaster Road. It will be Debenhams’ first store in North Lincolnshire and it will create up to eighty jobs.

A number of new stores have already opened: Home Bargains, Iceland and Maplins Electrical, while Matalan has expanded into a brand new store. And Poundland is planning to relocate into the old M&S store in the High Street this summer, a move that is likely to bring with it a number of additional jobs.

“We have a recession and I don’t doubt that there are businesses out there that are struggling but there are still a lot of businesses who are looking for premises in towns and cities like Scunthorpe.”

North Lincolnshire Council is playing its part in securing a future for Scunthorpe town centre.

Last year, the Old Market Hall was refurbished to create new units to let as well as an entertainment area called the Podium in the centre of the market hall. That is now used regularly for antique and collectibles markets and family entertainment. And now the council is to spend £150,000 updating Scunthorpe Market and creating more car parking for town centre shoppers.

The work includes demolishing redundant stalls at the rear of the market hall and resurfacing the area to create a new shoppers’ car park with ninety new car parking spaces available.

2012 has been a year of celebration for everyone up and down the country through the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the Olympics, but one of Scunthorpe’s renowned businesses has an extra reason to celebrate.

The Clugston Group, the privately owned company with interests in construction, logistics, property development and facilities management, is marking its 75th anniversary this year and it intends to celebrate the milestone by raising £75,000 for charities.

These include The Lighthouse Club Benevolent Fund, Lindsey Lodge Hospice, The National Autistic Society, The Prince’s Trust, The Samaritans and The Weston Park Hospital Development.

Fundraising events taking place throughout 2012 include the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge, a thirty-eight-mile cycle ride from Lincoln to Boston and a ten-kilometre swim.

Clugston is also pledging savings made during the year from the introduction of energy saving and carbon reducing technologies – all part of a group-wide investment in a sustainable future.

Recent initiatives include the installation of photovoltaic panels at its offices in Scunthorpe, and the installation of technology within the logistics fleet which promotes fuel and carbon-efficient driving by providing drivers with real time in-cab alerts about their driving style.

Started by the current chairman’s father in the 1930s the company was initially involved in the iron and steel industry. In 1937 Clugston Cawood Ltd became incorporated, pioneering the development and use of recycled blast furnace slag from Scunthorpe’s iron and steel plants.

Used in a variety of building materials it was also used for the construction of RAF runways in World War Two, complete with a jukebox packed with rock’n’roll hits which led the company into civil engineering, road construction and sea defences on the east coast.

As the business grew, Clugston steadily expanded into related activities such as building, transportation and the provision of bulk services to some of the UK’s largest companies.

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