Market Rasen welcomes recovery plans
Businesses in Horncastle have been working together to encourage more trade and visitors, with expert advice and markets for young entrepreneurs providing a boost in a challenging economic climate. By Melanie Burton.
Earlier this year, Market Rasen was hit by torrential rain and overnight flooding which caused thousands of pounds worth of damage to businesses and saw around 100 homes evacuated.
It triggered a strong community response to help the town recover in time for the start of the Christmas shopping period, which gets underway this month.
Much has been going on behind the scenes already this year to help ensure the town can adapt to a changing economy amid recent challenges, with jobs fairs to help get people into work and investment projects to attract more visitors to the district.
The latest was a free event to highlight employment opportunities, career guidance and training.
The West Lindsey Employment & Skills Partnership sponsored the Autumn Jobs and Training Fair with support from the Department for Work & Pensions (DWP).
The interactive and informative event aimed to offer all residents access to help and advice from employers, training providers and advice agencies with local employers and organisations promoting career opportunities and training available and experts on hand to talk about the skills employers are looking for.
Partnership manager for the DWP, Graham Metcalfe said: “We have worked closely with the council and the Skills Partnership over many years to assist with the running of similar events which provide employers and partners with an opportunity to connect their offers to the customer base. These events provide great outcomes for those able to attend.”
West Lindsey District Council is a member of the Skills Partnership and its employment and skills lead for the council, Amanda Bouttell, said: “During this period of economic uncertainty and with the pressure on individuals to seek or change employment, it’s really vital that we can offer events that bring together organisations offering employment advice and support alongside employers with a wide range of job openings.”
Visitor economy businesses across West Lindsey have also been able to super-charge their skills with ‘retail champion’ Clare Bailey’s support programme offering one-to-one action plans focusing on their marketing campaigns (awareness building), business engagement (collaboration) and best practice (training).
Clare said: “What makes a destination is as much about the locals who visit daily, as well as those visiting from further afield. Encouraging collaboration between local businesses across retail, hospitality, leisure, personal care and attractions is what enables more exciting and curated experiences to be developed, giving people a more compelling reason to visit one place over another.”
Clare is the best-selling author of The Retail Champion: 10 Steps to Retail Success and one of the most well-known and respected retail experts and business consultants in the UK. She is a regular TV news guest, featuring on BBC Television, Talk TV, Sky, Channel 4 and ITV.
A new Visitor Economy Strategy and Action Plan has also been put in place which outlines West Lindsey District Council’s ongoing commitment to the sector.
The plan, which was approved at the council’s Prosperous Communities Committee recently, aims to drive West Lindsey forward as a visitor destination, with the support of key stakeholders.
Chairman of the Prosperous Communities Committee, Councillor Owen Bierley, explained: “We recognise that visitors have the potential to provide a significant boost to the local economy, diversifying the range of businesses available to residents and providing much-needed jobs.
“However, it needs to be done in a ‘sustainable manner’ in order to contribute to the quality of life, economy, employment and local community development, to create an authentic and responsible product.
“We want to attract more visitors and encourage people who are already visiting to stay longer, explore further and spend more during their stay.”
Figures show that visitors to the district have continually grown year-on-year and the plan aims to build on this with its place-based marketing approach.
Other initiatives are being planned to boost community engagement and improve leisure, health and well-being opportunities as part of the council’s Investment Plan to the Government, which sets out how it will spend its allocation of the UK Shared Prosperity Fund.
Councillor Bierley said: “This funding will help us to address many challenges and opportunities in our local communities. Our investment plan is about connecting people, building pride in our communities and place, supporting businesses and boosting the skills and life chances of individuals throughout our district.”
The Shared Prosperity Fund is the UK Government’s replacement for the EU funding following the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union.
Interventions highlighted by the council include creating a flagship community grants programme that will create new and improved community facilities and boost engagement, helping to tackle social isolation and loneliness – more than 12% of adults in the district said they felt lonely “often” or “always” (national average 7.2%).
A multi-event signature programme is also proposed along with improvements to walking and cycling paths, to enhance the leisure and health and wellbeing opportunities.
There is also a continued focus on supporting Market Rasen’s local businesses, the majority of which in the town are micro businesses (90%). Director of planning, regeneration and communities for WLDC, Sally Grindrod-Smith, said: “If we want to create a strong, stable, diverse and self-sustainable business environment then we need to support our local businesses.
“West Lindsey does have ambitious plans to support inclusive growth and regeneration of our communities and in order to maximise the impact of this fund we aim to develop the best in class approach.”
The fund will also look to support and expand the delivery of the markets action plan, which focuses on increasing the number of people visiting and spending money creating more sustainable local markets and businesses – all good news for towns like Market Rasen.
As well as developing local plans for investment, the West Lindsey UK Shared Prosperity Fund Investment Plan also highlights wider challenges for the area including public transport provision and the availability of further education opportunities.
Watching out for the interests of both businesses and communities in the town is the Market Rasen Action Group which has been organising monthly pop-up markets throughout the year with a variety of stalls and the school uniform bank.
FESTIVE RACING RITUAL
As far as Christmas traditions go, Boxing Day at Market Rasen Racecourse has become a ritual for families across Lincolnshire and beyond with seven jump races to enjoy including the prestigious Lincolnshire National – the racecourse’s answer to the iconic Grand National.
The racecourse attracts one of its largest attendances of the year at the traditional festive meeting and there will be something on offer for all members of the family at this year’s Rand Farm Park Boxing Day at the Races event.
Inbetween racing, adults can grab a drink from the bar and enjoy music from one of the live bands playing throughout the day, or even try their luck on the rodeo reindeer, while the children can burn off some steam in the outdoor play area, or have their face painted by a professional face painter in the family enclosure.
All indoor areas will be open, so you can escape the winter chill, plus this year there will be an additional family marquee for all to enjoy along with food stalls, festive treats and plenty of entertainment.
Market Rasen Racecourse, which is part of The Jockey Club, stages more than 20 jump racing fixtures each year and is a leading conference and events centre in the East Midlands.
The venue is one of the friendliest places in the country to watch jump racing, with events held throughout the year including afternoon racing.
The beautiful track, in a lovely rural setting where it has been since 1924, is best known as a premier summer jumping racecourse.
Top races include the Grade 3 Summer Plate and the Summer Hurdle, both run during the annual Ladies’ Day in mid-July.
NEW CHAIR FOR RACECOURSE
The racecourse also starts the New Year with a new chair in charge after Sue Lucas was appointed to the role.
Born and raised in Lincolnshire, Sue has been on the Racecourse Committee since 2016 and has a strong family connection with Market Rasen.
She is now the fifth generation of her family to be involved in the running of the Lincolnshire venue.
It was Thomas Nettleship in the 1870s who began the family connection, followed by his son James Henry Nettleship, who was in part responsible for the purchase of land at Willingham Road, where the racecourse stands now. Next year will also see the 100th anniversary of the racecourse in its current location.
However, it was James Henry’s son-in-law, Victor Lucas – Sue Lucas’s husband’s grandfather – who was most influential in shaping the course as it is known today.
Victor was responsible for the running of the course from 1945 until his death in 1971 and oversaw a number of changes to the venue’s facilities which remain in place to this day.
These include ensuring the course itself could be seen from all enclosures, moving the parade ring to a position next to the track and accessible to all racegoers, and the promotion of racing as a family day out with a children’s playground and picnic area.
Victor also masterminded the sale of Market Rasen Racecourse to what is now known as The Jockey Club in 1967, and the Lucas family have remained involved at the racecourse ever since.
Sue said: “It is an honour and a pleasure to be taking on the role of chair at Market Rasen from next year. This is my local community, I was born and raised in the area and I feel passionate about this wonderful asset that helps to put Market Rasen on the map.
“I am the fifth generation of the family to be involved here so the racecourse holds a place very close to the heart of the whole family. It seems incredible to think that the 2023/24 season will mark 100 years of racing on the Willingham Road site and we are in fact only a few years away from celebrating 200 years of racing in the Market Rasen parish.”
Outgoing chair Tommy Cooper added: “Sue has been a tremendous asset on the Racecourse Committee for the past six years and I can’t think of anyone better to take over the reins as chair.
“With Market Rasen Racecourse celebrating its centenary on the current site next year, it is fitting that its new chair will be someone with such a close family association.
Sandy Dudgeon, senior steward at The Jockey Club, said: “With her combination of tremendous passion and commitment, as well as her family connection to Market Rasen, I am sure she will be a great success as the course prepares for some momentous milestones in the next few years.”
BEST FISH AND CHIPS!
Market Rasen’s mobile fish and chip shop has been ranked as one of the best in the country.
The Lincolnshire Fryer, which is located in Louth Road, is one of three fish shops in Lincolnshire listed as part of the Fry Awards.
There is no overall winner from the list; the awards instead name the top 50 takeaways and top 10 restaurants in the UK. They sent mystery diners to chippies across the country to see which were worthy of featuring on the list.
Judges marked each shop for the quality of its food, cleanliness, staff knowledge and professionalism – as well as other factors such as social media presence.
Trevor White, who owns The Lincolnshire Fryer with his wife Wendy, said: “We weren’t expecting to be in the top 50 fish and chip takeaways in the country so it was a nice surprise. It shows a small business like us can compete with the big boys.
“We have been doing this for 17 years so a lot of people know us now. We get a lot who re-book us for parties and weddings.”
As one of the nation’s favourite dishes, more than £1billion is spent on fish and chips each year.
Reece Head, competition organiser, said: “We’re so pleased to announce this year’s winners. The awards recognise and celebrate the hard work, passion and dedication that these operators put into running their businesses.
“It’s been a tough couple of years for the industry, in particular for restaurants that have had to deal with closures, but operators continued to adapt, motivate their workforce and invest in new equipment and systems that have seen them come out the other side stronger and in a better position.
“Our 50 Best Takeaway and 10 Best Restaurant winners really do represent the best in the business
Entries for the 2022-23 awards competition have now closed and the results are expected to be announced in March next year.
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Photographs: Mick Fox