Boston looks forward to new dawn
Proposals to help increase footfall and make the town a better place to live, work and visit are underway, as Melanie Burton discovers.
Plans to transform Boston town centre and regenerate its historic buildings are moving forward.
There are also proposals to create a more attractive environment to help increase footfall and make the town a better place to live, work and visit – and local residents are being asked to contribute their ideas to a modern leisure project which would see enhanced leisure facilities for all.
The refurbishment and repair of properties, the replacement of shopfronts, the restoration of historic features, and the installation of new signage are just some of the improvements that are now underway.
They are being delivered through both the Boston Town Deal and the Boston Townscape Heritage Initiative, funded by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities and the National Lottery Heritage Fund respectively through a grant aid scheme, led by Heritage Lincolnshire, for business owners to invest in their properties.
Physical improvements to public spaces are also planned to be carried out in a partnership between Boston Borough Council and Lincolnshire County Council. These works – which are funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, Lincolnshire County Council, and Boston Town Deal – will create a consistent appearance between Dolphin Lane and the Market.
The town is already starting to benefit from more than £36m investment, a fact that was highlighted in this year’s Boston Town Deal annual report, and brings together the £21.9m Town Funding that was awarded to Boston in 2021 together with £14.3m in match funding. Progress is now being made in delivering this investment through a series of targeted projects built around the themes of skills and aspirations, sustainable economic growth, and pride in place.
In the past year, work has started on the repair, renovation, and redevelopment of the Blenkin Memorial Hall, and on the refurbishment of St Botolph’s Library.
The Centre for Food and Fresh Produce Logistics has been created and is working with Boston food related businesses, and a consultation event with local residents has taken place about the Mayflower, Boston’s new learning and development facility.
The investment and projects will bring significant benefits for the town, and it is envisaged that more than 2,600 people could access learning, more than 80 businesses will be assisted or created, and around 70 jobs could be created as a result of the investment.
These details were outlined in the Boston Town Deal annual report which was shared at the board’s recent annual meeting.
Chair of Boston Town Deal, Neil Kempster, said: “This huge investment offers a unique opportunity to bring significant improvements that will benefit the town now and into the future.
“Over the past year, our business cases have all been approved by Government and we have started to move from vision to delivery.
“It was great to be able to meet people in person at the AGM and talk about the fantastic work that is getting started.
“This is a very exciting time for Boston Town Deal and in the months and years ahead, we will see the projects come to fruition, ultimately helping to make our town an even better place to live, work, invest and visit for generations to come.”
Councillor Paul Skinner, Leader of Boston Borough Council and Boston Town Deal board member said: “The £36m being invested into transformational projects will bring positive change to every resident, worker and employer in this town.
“The benefits from these Town Deal projects will have a lasting impact and it shows what can be achieved through partnership working.
“Boston remains very much open for investment and this council will always support new investment and opportunities that help our residents and visitors.
“It is an exciting time for Boston as the delivery of these projects continues to be rolled out.”
As well as reflecting the achievements of the last year, the annual report also looked ahead to future milestones, including the completion of works at Blenkin Memorial Hall and St Botolph’s Library.
It is also anticipated that town centre improvements will begin on site in the spring/summer of 2023.
Neil Kempster added: “Our town centre is rich in heritage, and through this project, we are able to restore and refurbish buildings of historic value and bring in new improvements, including to signage and the public realm.
“As a result of this work, Boston town centre will be more appealing for residents, visitors, and businesses, and will offer an improved experience for all.”
Councillor Skinner reiterated that Boston was proud of its heritage and the Town Deal was helping to improve some of the town’s most historically important buildings.
“These improvements in the town centre will not only improve the street scene and encourage pride for where we live and work, they will make it an even more welcoming place for visitors.”
Visions for a modern, exciting new Boston Leisure Project are also being created as part of the Town Deal where £21.9m in Towns Funding was announced in 2021 for transformational projects in Boston.
The project will see a remodelled Geoff Moulder Leisure Complex to provide additional and improved facilities, utilising the existing public and training pools, all under one roof.
Councillor Nigel Welton, Deputy Leader and Portfolio Holder for Economic Development and Planning with Boston Borough Council, said: “The current leisure facility in Boston is dated and inefficient so we plan to improve and utilise the existing centre and bring it all under one roof. We hope the plans so far attract residents as we aspire to provide enhanced health and wellbeing options for people to use and enjoy.”
Boston residents were able to find out more about the multi-million-pound plans for investment in the town at a special event held at Boston College.
Vice-chair of the Boston Town Deal Board and Principal and CEO of Boston College, Claire Foster, said: “Over the last few years, the Town Deal board, together with partners, have been working to shape projects that reflect the needs and aspirations of our community and maximise Boston’s considerable potential.
“We have now reached an important milestone with all the projects approved for funding and moving into the delivery phase. This means we will start to see real progress on the ground in the coming years.
“Through these projects, we want to deliver significant benefits for Boston and for local people, and we are keen to continue to speak to and listen to the public as the work of the Town Deal gathers pace.”
The projects that are being delivered through Boston Town Deal in addition to the Healing the High Street and Leisure Centre projects include The Mayflower project, which will provide a unique and modern centre offering opportunities for skills training as well as space for community and businesses; the refurbishment of Boston railway station, which will see the full restoration of the main station building, with the existing heritage features retained; and the Centre for Food and Fresh Produce Logistics which offers free business support, training, networking opportunities, and access to capital grants for businesses within Boston town that are keen to develop and grow.
Councillor Skinner said: “The Boston Town Deal is bringing positive change, creating opportunities, reinforcing pride in place and enhancing the heritage Boston was built around.
“During the last year all the Town Deal projects have been accepted for funding and as these projects now start to be delivered, we are celebrating how partnership working can bring investment to Boston.”
The Healing the High Street initiative will see £3.9m spent on improving properties around Market Place, Strait Bargate and Wide Bargate. It will try and draw customers back to the area by restoring historic buildings and shopfronts.
Residents are also being asked to play their part in putting Boston Market on the map. In 2020 it was in the top 10 of the poll for Britain’s favourite market and voting has been taking place for Market of the Year 2023 run by NABMA – the National Association of British Market Authorities.
Councillor Tracey Abbott, Portfolio Holder for Markets at Boston Borough Council, said: “I’m not surprised previously we reached the top 10, but this year we want to come out at the top and the lead-up to Christmas is a great time for our market town with people heading there to experience the festive atmosphere, enjoy some tasty treats and find perfect gift ideas.”
ARTS COUNCIL FUNDING BOOST
More people will be able to enjoy what Boston’s Blackfriars Theatre and Arts Centre has to offer after it was granted National Portfolio status from Arts Council England.
It has secured £390,000 over a three-year period for a new project which will begin in April 2023.
The venue is one of 990 organisations which will receive a share of £446 million (each year) ensuring that more people in more places can enjoy fulfulling art and culture on their doorsteps.
Blackfriars chairman Robert Barclay said it was very excited with the news and grateful that the Arts Council supported its ideas and plans for the future.
“This is a huge step forwards for Blackfriars and will help us to deliver culture to more people in our local community than ever before,” he said.
Area director for Arts Council England, Peter Knott said: “Blackfriars Arts Centre is a community space, theatre and art gallery and a hive of creative activity.
“It will be great to see them continue to deliver their stage productions, as well as engage with local people through their amateur dramatic and operatic groups.”
Arts Council England is the national development agency for creativity and culture and has set out its strategic vision in Let’s Create. By 2030 it wants England to be a country in which the creativity of each person is valued and given the chance to flourish and where everyone has access to a vast range of high-quality cultural experiences.
Blackfriars has already been fortunate to have received much-needed funding and support from Arts Council England over the past two years.
Boston Guildhall Museum was also successful in a funding bid from the Arts Council.
The building, in South Street, dates back to the 1390s and it is hoped the money will help to support the creation of a cultural centre at the museum, which also houses the Tourist Information Centre.
Councillor Paul Skinner, Leader of Boston Borough Council said: “The town is built around its history and has so much to offer for local and international visitors. This funding will help tell those stories to a wider audience and support our community-driven cultural providers as we lead up to the milestone of Boston 2030 and the international opportunities that will present to celebrate the town’s heritage.”
CHRISTMAS FUN FAIR
Market entertainment and a children’s Fun Fair will be the order of the day in Boston Market Place at a special event on Sunday 11th December consisting of market stalls accompanied by children’s rides and stalls and food vendors. A Santa Fun Run will also take place starting in Central Park.
The Boston Christmas Market and Illuminate Parade event took place at the end of November in Boston Market Place, Boston Stump and Pescod Square with a Festive Market, crafts and entertainment, children’s fun fair, street and pop-up entertainment, stalls and food venders complete with reindeer and a Santa’s Grotto.
the day, from nursery choirs to live singers, art and crafts, face painters, festive trails and more, and all performances were relayed into the Market Place via intercom systems.
Transported Arts undertook the Illuminate Parade with the theme this year of ‘Ocbetete’ – Bulgarian for ‘illuminate’ – in the form of trails around the town centre.
Photographs: Mick Fox