A town with growing ambitions

Words by:
Melanie Burton
Featured in:
February 2015

2015 looks set to be an exciting year for the Lincolnshire market town of Gainsborough, with a number of developments in the pipeline.
Much work has been going on behind the scenes, not only at the Town Council and Gainsborough Town Partnership but also in the retail and business sectors too.

Town Council clerk, Matthew Gleadell, said Gainsborough is a growing town which welcomes expansion, investment and change.

“The first draft of our community-led town plan has been produced, which will define the strategic actions for the town council for the next five to ten years and also act as a blueprint for what the public wants to see in Gainsborough over that period,” he said.

“Some of the bigger elements are mostly infrastructure work, on the railway and the bridge over the River Trent, which is a pinchpoint of congestion.

“The plan will also look at other aspects of life in Gainsborough, such as dog fouling, which is always a big issue, and we are looking at securing about £200,000 in funding to upgrade and modernise all the public playgrounds and playing sites across the town.

“In terms of transport, the Gainsborough Rail and Bus Users group (GRaB), which is a lobbying group, has just won a national award for its campaigning work.

“The group is trying to promote the town’s Central Station which used to be a big station but now only gets one train service per week on a Saturday. It is working with the Friends of Brigg and Lincoln line, and the efforts they have been putting in won them a Rail Future award which was pretty good.”

Gainsborough Central Station was dubbed the worst on the UK rail network and the railway service from Sheffield to Cleethorpes, which goes via Gainsborough Central, Kirton in Lindsey and Brigg stations, operates with three trains on Saturdays only.

But it is located just behind the town’s award-winning Marshall’s Yard shopping centre and closer to the town centre than the main Lea Road station. Mr Gleadell said work is also planned to improve the Lea Road station and increase use of the line.

The town council has agreed a five-year project with Lincolnshire Chamber of Commerce called the Gainsborough Town Partnership.

“That five-year plan is going to focus on investment and growth and the promotion of Gainsborough as a business destination,” said Mr Gleadell.

“We have a lot of new properties in Gainsborough. The problem is we are not shouting about it and spreading that message, so we are going to support the Town Partnership in a funding programme to get the promotion that Gainsborough needs.”

The town is set to increase in size and population over the next twenty years because of the Central Lincolnshire plan which is being put together and shows 42,000 new homes are needed between now and 2036.

“A large proportion of these houses are set to be built in Gainsborough, so it is likely to double in population and with that is the need for a lot of infrastructure investment, new jobs and facilities,” said Mr Gleadell.

“It is an exciting time for Gainsborough and unlike a lot of places, Gainsborough wants the investment, wants the expansion and better leisure facilities, whereas a lot of areas in central Lincolnshire are campaigning against it and don’t want any new housing. They want to be left alone, whereas Gainsborough is welcoming it.”

Gainsborough town manager, Samantha Mellows, said a number of events have already been planned to bring visitors into the town this year, including a Viking invasion and an Independents’ Day.

The Viking invasion takes place on 8th February at Gainsborough Old Hall and is a re-enactment to celebrate the town’s strong Viking history. It will highlight the time when King Forkbeard resided in the town and Gainsborough was the capital of England for a short time in 1014.

Independents’ Day is on 4th July, when Gainsborough will celebrate its independent retailers through a day of special events including an independents’ market and offers throughout the town.

“The general feeling in town at the moment is fairly positive,” said Samantha. “We have seen a number of new businesses start up, including Pyrus Studio on Spital Terrace which offers a creative work space with a variety of arts, crafts and music workshops.

“Trinity Street in the town has also seen a number of new businesses start up including The Stove Shop, selling woodburners and bespoke fireplaces, among many other stove products. The company also has another store in Scunthorpe.

“Businesses are starting to see an overall trend where trade is beginning to pick up as customers have a little more money to spend.”

One of the biggest positives for the town is the granting of planning permission for a new hotel to be built by Dransfield Properties Ltd, the owners of Marshall’s Yard.

“It is going to be run by a good hotel chain and located straight opposite Marshall’s Yard centre so that is good news for the town,” said Alison Hall, the centre’s assistant manager.

“All traders at Marshall’s Yard have seen a growth in their business and their turnover, particularly over Christmas so we are quite pleased with how the centre is performing.

“As well as being a shopping centre we provide incubation units for new businesses setting up and we have seen some quite good success stories such as Sills & Betteridge, which started here when the centre opened and has now moved into Brittania House with double the staff.

“Brown’s department store has gone from strength to strength and has more than exceeded its own expectations. It is an independent company based in York, with stores in Beverley and Helmsley, but the Gainsborough store is trading just behind Beverley so that is positive news for the town as well.”

The centre’s focus for 2015 is to increase the work it does in partnership with the local authority.

“We believe Gainsborough needs to be built on. By bettering the town centre it will help draw visitors to the town as a whole.

“We are working with the council to create events which can be marketed far and wide so people outside Gainsborough can see what the town has to offer.

“We are also looking to build our farmers’ market which takes place on the second Saturday of the month. We have a range of traders and produce including Redhill Farms pork, fish and fresh bread.

“People are quite conscious about what they eat and where the food comes from so that is something we are going to be concentrating on.”

One example of joint working with the Town Partnership and both the district and town councils was the Christmas lights switch-on which exceeded everyone’s expectations.

“It was a huge success with an estimated crowd of about 8,000 to 10,000 people,” said Alison.

“We got on board with Black Friday – producing a flyer of what offers were in the centre and the rest of the town, which was given out at the lights switch-on and on Black Friday we supported all the businesses in the town.

“By working with the town we want to try to build Gainsborough as a destination and that is what we want to build on. Businesses are still opening in Gainsborough so I think we are on the up.”

Confidence in Gainsborough has been boosted with the news that ambitious plans for an attractive new hotel on a key site in the town can go ahead.

The new scheme will transform the former Sun Inn site on the corner of Market Street and North Street in Gainsborough and work could start on the site over the next few weeks.

Developers Dransfield Properties, who also delivered the award-winning Marshall’s Yard shopping centre, worked with the architects Dixon Dawson to design an Edwardian style hotel housing fifty-one bedrooms which is in keeping with the neighbouring buildings.

West Lindsey District Council’s Planning Committee unanimously approved the scheme last summer. But because a small part of the former Sun Inn is a Grade II listed building their decision had to be referred to the Department for Communities and Local Government for final approval – and it said the decision could be determined locally.

The plans have been widely supported by the business community in Gainsborough and representatives of a number of local firms spoke in favour of the new development at the planning meeting, stressing the importance to the local community of a good quality hotel.

Dransfield Properties managing director, Mark Dransfield said: “We were delighted to have the unanimous approval of councillors for our hotel development as well as the huge amount of support it has received from the business community in Gainsborough.

“There’s been a long-held aspiration for a hotel in a central location in the town which will benefit both tourism and local business and this is a great step forward in realising that. We have always maintained from the outset that this is an important decision for the town.”

Gainsborough town manager, Samantha Mellows said the hotel is of a sympathetic design to ensure that the architecture fits in with the surrounding area.

“The hotel will be a great boost to the town which has had a long-term aspiration to have accommodation in the heart of the town centre.”

One of the businesses based in Marshall’s Yard has just announced major expansion plans, after seeing its staff numbers more than double in the five years it has been there.

The Lincolnshire digital design agency KAL Group, which has won a number of high-profile business awards, moved to offices at The Pattern Store in 2009 with a team of nine.

Now managing director Andrew Wood heads up a team of twenty-four, and the company has renewed its lease and extended its space at the town centre office and retail development, which opened in 2007.

KAL specialises in providing award-winning marketing services to the niche mobile leisure industry, which has grown in recent years. The sector makes up around seventy-five per cent of KAL’s clients and the agency was recently named as the number one agency for this specialism.

KAL has expanded from its 980 sq ft office space at the Pattern Store to take an additional 480 sq ft – in line with its plans for further growth and expansion over the next two years, with the help of the Government’s Growth Accelerator programme.

KAL Group consists of a marketing design agency (Kal Design), a software development company (Limelight Software) and mobile app development company (4pockets).

“This expansion shows how far we have come as a company in a relatively short space of time. Ours is a fast-moving and changing industry and keeping ahead of industry trends and understanding the needs of the customers we’re working with are key to succeeding,” said Andrew.

“We’re very proud to be part of the business community here in Gainsborough and to have grown our company here in the last five years. We look forward to continuing to make a positive contribution to the vibrancy of the town.”

In the last twelve months KAL Group has won three regional business awards including the Best Use of Innovation and Technology in the Gainsborough Business Awards.

Marshall’s Yard assistant centre manager, Alison Hall said: “KAL is a real success story here in our offices at the Pattern Store. The company moved here with a relatively small team a few years ago and through hard work and focus they’ve grown to be one of the leading agencies in our region.”

The Pattern Store is a Grade II listed building which was transformed into offices two years after the main Marshall’s Yard development was completed. Other companies based there include Think Umbrella, Keypoint UK and DCI Global.

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A Gainsborough lobbying group’s campaign to improve rail services to the town is paying off, with a national award and a persuasive argument for more trains.

Gainsborough Rail and Bus users group (GRaB) has been working with the Friends of the Brigg and Lincoln Lines (FoBLL) to get more trains to the town’s Central Station, now only on Saturdays.

The station has been dubbed the ‘worst station on the British rail network’ in a Times newspaper article and ‘something you would find in war-torn Beirut’ in a leading rail magazine.

The group, which was set up two years ago, was commended by national organisation Rail Future in the New Campaign category of its annual awards.

“Gainsborough Central station gets three trains a week – only on a Saturday,” said FoBLL’s Paul Johnson.

“It is located behind the town’s Marshall Yard’s shopping centre which is close to the town centre. But visitors have to use Lea Road station which is a twenty to twenty-five minute walk into town.

“We are campaigning to get a proper train service on that line. We are realistic. We looked at the timetable and saw what we could do with what we had got and we worked closely with Northern Rail.

“At the moment three trains come into the station. But it is possible to make that four without changing the rail schedule. And we are hearing on the grapevine that we may have four trains for the May timetable.”

The group also campaigns for better bus services. It was successful in securing a Saturday only bus service between Gainsborough and Doncaster in November 2013 but continued to receive requests for a regular service all week. 

“Nottinghamshire County Council did a consultation in October and, as a result of that, we have a draft timetable for a bus service six days a week from Gainsborough to Doncaster. They were very positive,” said GRaB’s secretary, Barry Coward.

GRaB has also asked West Lindsey District Council  to help start a new town bus route serving the leisure centre, Corringham Road, the bus station, Lea Road Station and Lea Green.

“Gainsborough has a population of 20,000 but 5,000 haven’t got a bus service that takes them into town or to the train station,” said Barry.

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