Town has lots in store

Dining Out

Words by:
Melanie Burton
Featured in:
July 2014

Whilst the north Lincolnshire town of Scunthorpe is renowned for being the UK’s largest steel-producing centre, it still has much to offer in the retail and business sectors.
Scunthorpe has two existing major shopping centres and a new out-of-town retail park under construction, while a new £9.5m state-of-the-art University Technical College (UTC) is set to be built, securing Scunthorpe’s place in the engineering field of the future.

The covered Foundry Shopping Centre, which was built in the late 1960s/early 1970s during a wholesale reconstruction of the old town, is in a prime location sitting in the middle of the High Street next to Scunthorpe’s market. It has more than forty shops, including many traditional retailers and some independents.

Lynnette Bray is The Foundry’s new centre manager. She said: “We are fortunate in having the only covered shopping street in Scunthorpe and extensive canopies on the uncovered areas to make shopping a more pleasant experience in all weathers.

“The centre is child-friendly and community focused and holds various events throughout the year, many coinciding with school holidays. We are close to all car parks and the bus station and the train station is only a ten-minute walk away.”

The centre also has mall space for promotions and retail stands, offering a range of products often not found in other stores.

Adjacent to the centre, there is additional entertainment in the form of a seven-screen multiplex cinema and library, along with more than 900 car parking spaces within easy reach.

The town’s other shopping centre is the part-covered Parishes, which opened in 2002 at a cost of £65 million.

It too has a new manager, Valerie Hardy, who has taken on the role after Tony Pickering left the post to take up a new job. She is planning a number of new initiatives to boost trade including closer liaison with the town’s Vue Cinema and improvements to the parking arrangements.

Much is also being done by North Lincolnshire Council to increase footfall and encourage more people into the area, including free parking and Wi-Fi in the town centre and a raft of plans to support local redevelopment schemes, including the new civic quarter being created in Church Square.

North Lincolnshire Council leader, Councillor Liz Redfern, said: “We are dedicated to improving Scunthorpe town centre through a variety of schemes.

“We are doing all we can to develop Scunthorpe to be the vibrant centre we know it can be. There are some great retailers and businesses currently located in the town centre and we want to further enhance this.

“We are working in partnership with many other local organisations to ensure that we make the most of Scunthorpe town centre and ensure that Scunthorpe and North Lincolnshire are placed firmly on the map as an area that people want to visit and a place where businesses want to do business.

“Our vision for Church Square is for it to be a business development centre where businesses will want to be located.”

Shoppers have been able to park for free for two hours in all North Lincolnshire Council car parks since the beginning of May. And with an increase week-on-week in the number of free two-hour tickets being obtained, the council has now introduced all-day free parking at its town centre car parks on Saturdays.

Councillor Redfern said: “We are the only council in the county to offer free car parking and this says a great deal about our vision for North Lincolnshire.

“Scunthorpe is an important town for employment and leisure and we want to encourage as many people as possible to visit and spend time here, particularly at weekends.

“The introduction of free car parking every Saturday will also enable North Lincolnshire to compete with other shopping centres in our area and enable us to continue to regenerate our town centres and improve the quality of life for our residents.”

Shoppers and visitors can also now access free Wi-Fi for up to two hours on the High Street after the council invested £20,000, in brand new infrastructure.

Work is also well underway on the construction of a new £25,000 out-of-town retail park which will bring Marks & Spencer and Debenhams to Scunthorpe.

The 115,000 sq ft North Lincolnshire Shopping Park will be anchored by a 50,000 sq ft M&S store with 450 car parking spaces on the former Stephen H Smith garden centre site in Doncaster Road. It will also be home to Boots, Subway and Costa coffee outlets and is expected to create around 300 jobs.

It is due to be completed by the end of this year although the new stores are expected to be open in the autumn.

Paul Gouland, chairman of the North Lincolnshire branch of the Hull & Humber Chamber of Commerce which covers the Scunthorpe area, has welcomed the return of M&S to the town alongside Debenhams and Boots.

“It is a positive move and shows confidence in the area by these retail giants,” he said. “There were concerns that, as these will be at the North Lincolnshire Shopping Park on Doncaster Road, this will impact on the town centre. But to alleviate this the council’s decision to provide more free parking in the town centre was acknowledged as a positive move which it is hoped will draw more people in.”

He said other major developments in Scunthorpe which will play a part in its future are the Lincolnshire Lakes Housing scheme and the continued investment in the educational offering in the area.

“Recent expenditure by John Leggott and North Lindsey Colleges will add to this, as will the announcement that the bid to attract a UTC, University Technical College, to the town has been successful,” said Mr Gouland.

Privately owned group of companies Clugston Ltd has its base in Scunthorpe and has had reason to celebrate after winning a major contract to build the town’s new University Technical College and also delivering the best ever results in its seventy-seven-year history.

Clugston Ltd will start work this summer on the £9.5m UTC, which will be a state-funded school for 14 to 19 year olds. The project will create around 150 jobs. A further seventy teaching jobs will be available when it is completed and open in September 2015.

Founded in 1937, Clugston ended its latest financial year by delivering a twenty-six percent jump in turnover to £231m from £183m in the previous year, whilst pre-tax profit rose five percent, from £6m to £6.3m.

Clugston Group chief executive, Stephen Martin is delighted.

“We have substantially increased turnover, improved pre-tax profits, generated excellent cash balances and further strengthened our balance sheet,” he said.

“During the past year we have continued to successfully deliver services and projects to our established customers and further build on our expertise in key sectors.

“We now have solid foundations on which to continue to develop. Whilst we believe 2014 will continue to be challenging, with our main markets still remaining highly competitive, we remain confident for the future.”

The UTC will have significant input from businesses and education partners from across the region and will specialise in engineering and renewable energy, alongside the more traditional subjects including English, maths and science.

The Local Education Partnership (LEP) will be appointed to ensure that the project is delivered on time. It comprises North Lincolnshire Council and Engage, which is a joint venture between Clugston Construction Ltd and specialist high technology company MASS Consultants Ltd.

The LEP is no stranger to major building projects. It won the contract to deliver the council’s £86.7m ‘Building Schools for the Future’ programme to transform secondary education in North Lincolnshire.

All successful UTC graduates will be offered an interview with a major employer and a conditional offer to study engineering at the University of Hull.

Councillor Redfern said: “It will create a massive boost for the town. We gave local residents and businesses the opportunity to have their say on the UTC plans at an event held in April and through our online consultation.

“Their views will help shape the UTC and ensure that we are providing a facility that meets parents’ and young people’s needs.”

The new UTC will be built in the heart of the town centre where the former leisure centre stood in Church Square – close to the shops, library, market, and 20-21 Visual Art Centre.

The UTC is supported by a number of leading employers from the North Lincolnshire region including Scunthorpe based Tata Steelworks, TOTAL oil refinery, Able UK, the University of Hull and North Lindsey College.

LEP general manager, Richard Alport said, working with North Lincolnshire Council, it will draw on its established supply chain to deliver a locally resourced building.

“With Clugston Construction being a supply chain partner to the LEP, we will use local subcontractors and suppliers. This is a fantastic opportunity for local companies and we look forward to working with the council and other partners on this huge development.”

Tata Steel is another major area employer and this year has been celebrating the 150th anniversary of the start of ironmaking in Scunthorpe.

Work has just begun on a £30m rebuild of the Queen Anne blast furnace. It is expected to take around six months and will create 400 much-needed contracting jobs for Scunthorpe.

It is the biggest single investment in the town since its Indian owners bought the site in 2007 as part of a £6.4 billion deal.

While blast furnace ironmaking was brought to Scunthorpe by George Dawes in 1864, it was not long before he was followed by other Victorian ironmakers keen to cash in on the growing demand for iron.

By 1876 there were six separate iron companies operating twenty-three blast furnaces within a one-mile radius. By that time the pace of innovation was already picking up and these early blast furnaces were each capable of producing around twenty tons of iron a day.

In 1904, the introduction of the first mechanically-charged furnace, which was also equipped for the first time with a steel hearth jacket, tuyeres fabricated from copper and the first revolving distributor, saw a step change in how much iron could be made.

Dave Collins is the works manager, ironmaking, for Tata Steel in Scunthorpe. He is currently overseeing the £30 million-plus re-line of the town’s sixty-year-old Queen Anne blast furnace.

“When the first blast furnace was tapped in 1864 it cost around £260 in today’s money to produce a ton of iron. Well, 150 years later we can do it for less than that, thanks to the hard work of generations of ironmakers who came to Scunthorpe, made it their home and added to the collective knowledge of great ironmaking,” he said.

“I am very proud to be part of what is really a very short history, which has helped create the modern world we live in today. “It is something I am delighted to be a part of and I know everyone here at Tata Steel is proud of too.”

Debenhams is set to open in Scunthorpe later this year. The new store, will be located in the new North Lincolnshire Retail Park, will open its doors for the first time in October.  

Chris Claxton is the store manager who will be responsible for the new Scunthorpe store.  

He said: “I am thrilled we are opening the new Debenhams in Scunthorpe. Our new store will showcase our exclusive designer ranges from fashion designers such as Jasper Conran, Henry Holland and Ben De Lisi. The store will also boast a premium cosmetics and fragrance hall where customers will find all the latest products and our specially trained beauty consultants will be on hand to give expert advice.

“I believe that the store will bring a real point of difference to the growing range of places to shop in Scunthorpe and give customers a fantastic shopping experience.

“Opening the store will create around 100 new jobs and I am passionate about supporting our local community with the careers we have to offer. Retail is a fast moving and exciting business and I know that every single member of the Scunthorpe team will play an important part in making the store a great place to shop for our customers.”

As well as womenswear and cosmetics the store will also offer lingerie, accessories, menswear, home and childrenswear which will boast ranges from Ted Baker and also a restaurant. In addition the store will have a dedicated Click and Collect desk for customers’ orders and the very latest in store kiosks that customers can use to browse the Debenhams website and purchase their chosen products.

Lynnette Bray is the new manager at the Foundry Shopping Centre and has been in the post for four months, having taken over from Peter Golightly who retired in March.

She also manages The Priory Shopping Centre in Worksop and has been there for the past two years. Prior to that her role was operations manager at Afflecks Palace shopping centre in Manchester.

Lynnette, who was recently shortlisted for the Centre Manager of the Year award in the SCEPTRE awards, said: “I am really looking forward to the challenges and opportunities that this new role will bring. I want to get to know the centre’s shoppers and retailers and learn about their aspirations for the Foundry and the town as a whole.”

The SCEPTRE Awards are now in their fifteenth year and recognise the best practice and the best people in the shopping centre industry. They put the spotlight on management teams, retailers and suppliers that demonstrate real excellence.

“I want to create opportunities and forge partnerships within the local community. I feel that community engagement is vital to all shopping centres and town centres alike,” said Lynette.

“My aim for The Foundry is to create a safe, vibrant, family friendly shopping environment as well as enhance the centre’s retail offering. We will be hosting events aimed at the local community of Scunthorpe.”

The Foundry Shopping Centre is in a prime location sitting in the middle of the High Street next to Scunthorpe’s market and has more than forty shops.

“The Foundry also offers limited selective charity space, helping to support both local and national causes in their fundraising events and the ever popular wishing well in our Easter and Christmas displays,” added Lynnette.

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