Newark students can aim for the starts
There are exciting plans for regeneration, boosting businesses and encouraging tourism – and a new training centre is set to bring more people into the aviation and space industries. By Melanie Burton
Though Covid hasn’t gone away yet and the advice is still to remain cautious, there is a feeling of optimism in the air for the festive season and high hopes for the New Year, particularly in the historic market town of Newark.
Work has been ongoing since the summer to boost the local economy, help local businesses recover from the pandemic and increase visitor numbers.
Just a few weeks ago Newark and Sherwood District Council hosted its first Economic Growth Conference attended by 88 delegates from 75 businesses and organisations from across the business industry.
Held in partnership with the Federation of Small Businesses, East Midlands Chamber and MP Robert Jenrick, the conference aimed to support local businesses by providing them with an understanding of the economy’s future.
Attendees heard from a wide range of speakers who spoke about the opportunities for Newark and Sherwood businesses in the future through the Government’s levelling up agenda and new projects and infrastructure – such as Newark’s world class International Air & Space Training Institute (IASTI®) and the newly opened Construction College.
Current business trends, including the emphasis on continuing growth but at a slower pace and several insights into consumer trends were all topics covered as well as the importance of adapting to ever-changing conditions and remaining curious.
Neil Cuttell, the council’s Business Manager – Economic Growth and the Visitor Economy from Newark and Sherwood District Council, also spoke about how the council would enable economic growth through various key projects.
The conference gave attendees the opportunity to ask experts questions relevant to their business, and to engage in several workshops covering information on how to upscale and grow their workforce, the benefits of international expansion and how small businesses and the self-employed can move their business forward.
IASTI® Newark is an international centre of excellence to train people to enter the air and space industry and welcomed its first students in September.
The brand new educational facility is the first of its kind, with military and civil aviation partners, including the Royal Air Force, East Midlands Airport and National Space Centre working collectively to get more people working in the aviation and space industries.
It is also one of the projects being funded by Newark’s Towns Fund initiative, enabling state-of-the-art premises to be built within the town by September 2023.
Councillor David Lloyd, co-chair of Newark’s Towns Fund Board and leader of NSDC, said: “The opportunities and pathways that being a student with IASTI® Newark provides are quite literally, out of this world. Our young people will be given the chance to work with leading names in the aviation and space industry.
“There is no other destination offering this type of education and the Towns Fund Board is proud that Newark is leading the way for developing our pilots, aircraft engineers and astronauts of the future.”
Director of IASTI® Newark, Tom Marsden said: “We are already breaking down the barriers to make careers in aviation more accessible to young women and men from all backgrounds through our level 3 pilot and aircraft engineering courses.
“We are not stopping there, we want our students and the local community to dare to dream that a career within the space industry is within their reach too.”
IASTI® Newark was one of a number of priority projects identified as part of Newark’s Town Investment Plan, which was developed by the Newark Towns Fund Board to regenerate the town centre, boost business and improve infrastructure.
The redevelopment of the former Marks & Spencer building in Stodman Street, to create high quality town centre residential living and new commercial and office space, creating activity and footfall, was another project identified by the plan.
NSDC took ownership of the site in March 2020 but despite marketing the building, no viable offers or approaches for large retail premises were made and it became clear there was an interest for smaller retail spaces which led the council into exploring how the current building could be reconfigured and repurposed.
The project will see a new site built featuring 29 new homes and between two to four new retail units. They are expected to be available for residents by 2023/4 and will comprise one and two-bed apartments for private sale.
By increasing the resident population, it is forecast that the town centre will benefit from an increase in spend, use of facilities, footfall, new jobs and improved access to services.
The District Council has also secured £284k in additional grant funding for the project through the Government’s Brownfield Land Release Fund, in partnership with North Midlands One Public Estate.
This funding will support the cost of the demolition and remediation works and will allow for the scheme to be completed sooner than initially targeted and if planning permission is granted, demolition works are due to begin in
April 2022, with construction on site targeted for a start date of November 2022.
Councillor Lloyd said: “These are really exciting plans for Newark, to create new, high quality homes, retail space and job opportunities in the heart of the town centre. This will in turn drive local activity, footfall, dwell time and public spend, ultimately driving a catalyst to wider town-centre regeneration.
“I know that since the site became vacant in spring 2019 there has been a visible gap on the high street, which isn’t at all appealing to residents and visitors. Thanks to central government funding we can now submit these plans to redesign the area and bring this key site back into use for everyone to enjoy.”
Tourism was one sector which suffered badly because of the pandemic so a staycation campaign was launched in the summer aimed at encouraging visitors back to local attractions, B&Bs, hotels and eateries in the town and surrounding areas.
Chairman of the NSDC’s Economic Development Committee, Councillor Keith Girling, said: “It is important for our local economic recovery that we do all we can to encourage visitors to our district.
“Many residents own or work in the local tourism, hospitality and retail trades and we want to continue to support them as much as we can, particularly during this time of economic recovery, as people look for new or familiar places to visit in the UK.”
The campaign aimed to capitalise on the recent trend for UK staycations and focused on attracting families and couples interested in spending a few peaceful days exploring the historic landscape of Newark and Sherwood.
Newark saw an increase in visitors in the summer, according to data collected by footfall sensors in the town centre as part of the High Street Heritage Action Zone project.
The sensors can identify accurate visitor numbers, dwell time, visitor movements and the frequency of visits. Data collected showed a 70% increase in visits and an increase of dwell time to 151 minutes. The data is being used to understand the vitality and vibrancy of Newark town centre, to inform future policy and will act as evidence to attract businesses and investors to the town centre. Councillor Girling, said: “Whilst it is important that shoppers and retailers remain vigilant of Covid-19, it is also vital that we continue to support our local high streets during this period of recovery.”
The High Street Heritage Action Zone scheme was funded by Historic England, and aims to help with the recovery of local high streets by regenerating historic buildings and helping to engage local communities with their town centres.
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CHURCH RENOVATION PROJECT
Plans to ‘re-awaken’ Newark’s medieval parish church can now finally go-ahead thanks to National Lottery Heritage funding.
St Mary Magdalene Church Newark has been awarded a grant of £209,000 to develop a scheme with a view to carrying out a wide range of repairs and renovations forming the ‘Re-awakening of St Mary Magdalene; Supporting Newark’s Communities’ project.
The project aims to re-roof the south nave and, at the same time, install 120 solar panels, install new electrical and lighting systems with new central heating, undertake repairs to external masonry and stained glass, as well as re-ordering the south and west entrances and enclosing the north transept.
These works will improve the church environment to enable more community users to take advantage of this unique space in the centre of the town.
In particular the enclosure of the north transept will create a soundproofed room to enable groups of all ages to meet separately to other activities in the main church.
Technical work on the masonry and windows will enable the church to offer specific learning opportunities to young people interested in those skills.
The Church of St Mary Magdalene has been a place of gathering and worship for the townspeople of Newark for more than 800 years.
Situated, as it is, in the centre of the town adjacent to the historic market place, with its towering spire, it has acted as a beacon to Christians and others for many centuries and is one of the largest and finest parish churches in the country.
The bequest by Archdeacon Thomas Magnus in 1530 continues to enable the church to offer a musical education, which is exceptional in the context of a market town parish church.
Commenting on the award, Andrew Fearn, churchwarden, said: “The church has given the town a focus for Christian worship and community activities of many sorts.
“It is great to know that we are a step closer to preserving it for future generations.”
The present building is the third to stand on the site. The first was a Saxon church which was replaced in 1180. In 1310 plans were drawn up to rebuild the whole church with the exception of the tower.
The work took nearly 200 years to complete. At one time the town’s trade guilds each had a chapel in the church creating 16 altars as well as the high altar. Most were swept away during the Reformation.
There are now three chapels behind the high altar. St George’s Chapel was established as a war memorial after the
First World War and contains the colours of the Sherwood Foresters and the Magnus Grammar School roll of honour.
The spire dates back to around 1220 and as the fierce battles of the English Civil War raged, it was used as a lookout post. Today, there is a hole in the spire where a Parliamentarian cannonball is said to have hit it in 1644.
The church forms part of the Civil War Trail.
Photographs: Mick Fox