Paving the way for pedestrians

Dining Out

Words by:
Glynis Fox
Featured in:
April 2011

The countdown is on to a £2 million revamp in a Lincolnshire town. Boston’s Market Place is under the spotlight as residents and businesses look to benefit from a major revitalisation project, which aims to make much more of this bustling area and put it to even greater use in the future. Work is due to start in June and is expected to take four to six months to complete.
It follows extensive consultations where Boston Borough Council asked everyone from local shoppers to visitors and businesses to share their views on the scheme, which is being boosted by European funding.

The Market Place is at the heart of the town and flanked by a wide variety of shops, offices and cafes, nestling side-by-side.

It is also close to major tourist attractions, including the Parish Church of St Botolph, more affectionately known as ‘Boston Stump’, the Guildhall and Fydell House.

On market days the area is packed with stalls, laden with everything from fruit and vegetables to clothing and pet products, and these regularly attract shoppers from a wide catchment area.

The revamp aims to make Boston an even better destination for tourists and shoppers, to improve business for shopkeepers and market stallholders, encourage more people to enjoy the area around the Ingram Memorial and the Stump, and to create an improved ‘transport hub’ for buses and taxis.

The facelift will mean the loss of about sixty car parking spaces, but councillors say this is less than 1.5 per cent of the total available parking within the town centre, so that still leaves people with a choice of thousands more parking slots.

A Boston Borough Council spokesman said: “During the consultation some people expressed, in the strongest possible terms, that they think it is about time that Boston made better use of its best assets.

“Others said they will be pleased to see an end to the conflict between cars and pedestrians, while others expressed concerns about losing some of the car parking spaces.”

Boston Borough Council is contributing £450,000 to the scheme, which will also attract a further £1.55m from other sources, including £1.1m from the European Regional Development Fund, £200,000 from the County Council and £250,000 from the former Boston Area Regeneration Company.

This investment will then attract a further £500,000 from English Heritage, which will be used to help pay for the revamp of buildings within Boston’s conservation area.

The Council spokesman said some misunderstandings had arisen over the £1.1m in European funding. But he said, it had been explained that this money was only on offer once and only for this scheme.

“This means that if Boston passed it up, a town somewhere else in Europe might have the opportunity to use it instead,” he said.

Both Council bosses and the town’s business managers believe the Market Place revamp will pave the way for a brighter future for Boston.

“This work will attract significant external funding into Boston, capitalise on the town’s historic core – which has been described by English Heritage as the most important market town in the east midlands – and return the market place to its historic primary use, as an aesthetically-pleasing leisure and trading area,” said the spokesman.

Boston BID (Business Improvement District) manager, Niall Armstrong, believes the facelift will complement the BID’s work on a range of initiatives aimed at helping the town to become more commercially successful.

“Getting rid of sixty car parking spaces in the market place, and a parking island, may not be popular moves, but they will help to make the overall area more vibrant,” said Mr Armstrong.

“Removing the bulk of the spaces from the northern end, will leave us with a more flexible area, which gives us the potential to look at staging further events.

“Some parking areas have been left and the Wednesday and Saturday markets will still continue. The removal of some spaces will not stop people from coming in to shop,” he said.

Boston appears to be doing better than many others when it comes to retailing.

A snapshot of shopping centres countrywide has shown that it outperformed many of its counterparts during 2010.

The town was ranked 18th out of eighteen destinations in East Yorkshire and Lincolnshire – with a shop vacancy rate down 0.7 per cent to 7.6 per cent – the best in its area.

“Overall, the Local Data Company (LDC) report gave a pretty bleak forecast so, from our point of view, it was pleasing to see Boston at the lowest point in its area table, because that ranking was for the right reasons,” said Mr Armstrong.

“We have seen an improvement in our vacancy rate. We were one of only two in our area to do so, the other being Gainsborough.

“I spoke to the LDC and the outlook is bleak. However, those places which are trying to actively manage the economy, either by having a BID, a Town Centre Management Team or a Town Centre Partnership, are the ones which are seeing the benefits,” he said.

“We have a BID and we are trying to improve things and it is good to see in the report that his type of initiative makes a difference.”

In Boston, Mr Armstrong and the BID Board have drawn-up eight areas of the town, which will each be represented by a Board member and trader representatives.

The BID hopes to start regular quarterly meetings this month, where the representatives from each area will be able to give the Board feedback on what they would like to see done to improve their part of town, commercially.

“We think that this will help BID area businesses to feel more involved. There will be a BID director with responsibility for each area, who will gather ideas and discuss any further plans and progress being made,” said Mr Armstrong.

“Although this doesn’t mean that every area will ultimately get what it wants, it does mean that individual traders’ voices will be heard.”

The BID has also devised a new 3D map to help visitors to Boston. Copies will shortly be given to strategically-placed businesses and local attractions, where people can easily get hold of them.

And the BID is investing in new non-dating Directory Boards, which have been specifically designed to highlight its lifestyle and other niche businesses.

Mr Armstrong is seeking district council approval to get these put up in areas such as South Street, Dolphin Lane, Wormgate and Pen Street.

• Boston’s most famous landmark is the fourteenth century St Botolph’s Church. Also known as ‘The Stump’, it has a 271 ft high tower.
• Boston’s Port handles all sorts of shipments, from animal feed to timber, steel and grain. The Port, which deals with 1.5m tonnes of cargo annually, was set-up in 1886 and privatised in 1990.
• The town has some interesting buildings and visitor attractions. They include the eighteenth century Customs House at Packhouse Quay; Fydell House in South Street and Boston Guildhall (St Mary’s Guildhall and Guildhall Museum) – also in South Street. The Guildhall is where the Pilgrim Fathers were imprisoned in 1607.
• Boston is also the place to find the country’s oldest working windmill – The Maud Foster Windmill, which dates back to 1819.

While Boston’s Market Place gears up for its long-awaited facelift – another makeover in the town is well underway.

Central Park, which is popular with people of all ages, is being lavished with the sort of care and attention which is designed to make up for a lack of investment in this much-loved green space over the past ten years.

But it is not only money that is making a difference, this ‘green lung’ is also being revived with the help of an enthusiastic band of volunteers.

And the end result should be a leisure attraction which offers something for everyone – from the very young, to older, more adventurous children and adults keen to keep fit and even do a spot of gardening.

All sorts of things are going on and some of the changes are already evident.

As we went to press, visitors were being greeted by the sight of 20,000 crocuses planted by pupils from the Park Community School.

Other initiatives to boost the area, include the allocation of £40,000 by the Government’s Playbuilder Fund and the Lincolnshire Community Safety Partnership. This will pay for an exciting adventure addition to the existing pay equipment.

A Grow2East community, reflecting today’s popular grow-your-own trend, has been launched. It will eventually see an area developed with fruit trees and raised beds of vegetables, which will be looked after by volunteer gardeners.

The park’s popular aviary has also been given a new look and park warden John Dyson is particularly proud of what has been achieved on this front.

The revamp includes a wildlife garden designed and prepared by pupils from The John Fielding School.

A Boston Borough Council spokesman said: “There is a lot of community involvement in this project. Some of the work has already been completed, but the new play equipment, outdoor keep-fit kit and community growing areas are still being developed.”

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