Gainsborough gains ground

Developments in the leisure sector and a scheme to restore historic buildings means the town can be quietly confident going into 2021. By Melanie Burton.
Though businesses, the hospitality sector and leisure industry have all been hit hard by the tough restrictions the country has faced in recent months, they have been doing all they can to ensure that Gainsborough is prepared for when lockdown finally comes to an end.

As well as grants being made available for businesses that were forced to close and community groups supporting the response to the pandemic, a new cinema for the town has taken a step nearer to fruition, the Trinity Arts Centre has been given a funding lifeline and there are plans to preserve local heritage buildings.

Marshall’s Yard shopping centre reported a 20 per cent reduction in customers in the run-up to Christmas compared to other similar periods but overall bosses at the centre said it was better than expected.

Alison Shipperbottom, centre manager at the yard, says businesses there have done better than those in big cities: “Visitor numbers are not as high as we would expect in a normal year but they are definitely at the level we anticipated.”

Gainsborough’s monthly Farmers’ and Craft Market took place as planned at the beginning of January with traders offering fresh local produce including fresh cuts of meat and fish, hand prepared fishcakes, freshly baked bread and sweet treats at the outdoor market in Market Place.

The monthly market moved from its original location on Market Street to the Market Place in June 2020 to allow the market to adhere to all current Covid-19 safety guidelines including socially distanced stalls, wide accessible areas plus hand sanitisers on each stall.

The farmers’ market is held on the second Saturday of every month and is part of a joint initiative coordinated by Marshall’s Yard with West Lindsey District Council. Since its reopening in June, the outdoor market has been widely supported by traders and shoppers in Gainsborough.

Charlotte Toplass, Marshall’s Yard tenant liaison executive, said: “We are pleased the market is able to operate under the latest safety measures and we look forward to welcoming all traders selling both essential and non-essential goods back once again when restrictions are eased, and it is safe to do so.”

In the hospitality sector, plans for a new multiplex cinema in Gainsborough town centre were approved by West Lindsey District Council before Christmas, so the old Lindsey Centre site will be redeveloped to include a four-screen cinema complex, along with three other commercial units, and a car park.

Leader of the Council, Councillor Owen Bierley, said: “We are delighted to see these exciting plans granted permission as we believe it would be a welcome asset to the leisure economy of the town.

“However, we have witnessed the challenges the entertainment sector has faced with many entertainment venues closed as we try to control the virus. With this in mind we recognise there may be some real challenges ahead but we are committed to continue to work with the leisure sector to work on plans for the future to make this long-term vision become a reality.”

Charities and community organisations delivering essential services to vulnerable residents in the current climate can apply for a grant of up to £5,000 thanks to a £100,000 Community Fund, which was created by West Lindsey District Council to support such groups during the Covid emergency. Access to the grant is available until 31st March 2021.

Eligible groups can apply for between £250 and £5,000 – and since the grant was created, organisations such as the Salvation Army, Feeding Gainsborough and Brookenby Community Group have been allocated funding.

Matt Snee, community engagement officer, said: “Like everywhere else in the country, Covid-19 has hit our district hard – causing financial, emotional and physical distress to almost if not all of our residents. It is incredible to see so many people pulling together right now, to help those who are especially struggling, and that is why we have put this funding together.

“If you are part of a group that is providing essential services right now – it could be providing food to elderly residents, delivering medication, or checking in on someone to make sure they are okay – we want to help.”

Work to restore the ‘historic heart of Gainsborough’ began last year thanks to a grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund. The £1.25 million grant will be invested as part of a major project to restore historic buildings and heritage assets in the town centre.

The Townscape Heritage Initiative (THI) will improve the standard of repair, maintenance and appearance of properties within the Town Centre Conservation Area of Gainsborough, focusing specifically on Lord Street and the Market Place. The investment totals £1.96 million after contributions from West Lindsey District Council as well as third party and volunteer contributions.

Jonathan Lee is the Townscape Heritage officer who will be leading the project and has made significant progress in making contact with property owners and helping them move forward with renovation work.

He said: “Gainsborough has suffered from under-investment and progressive erosion of historic buildings, shopfronts and architectural features, over many decades. With National Lottery Heritage Fund backing, third party grants are available to owners of 28 properties, enabling significant repair and maintenance, including the redevelopment of empty shops, reinstatement of some historic architectural features and enhanced maintenance to windows of flats and offices above.

“I am passionate about historic buildings and will ensure that repair and reinstatement works in Gainsborough are implemented in accordance with best practice, using appropriate traditional materials, by competent conservation contractors, and that they will then be properly maintained by the owners.”

The project will also include a programme of activities to inform and educate the public about their historic environment.

Historic research and interpretation will be undertaken by volunteers from the Gainsborough community, school and college pupils, as well as students from the University of Lincoln, all developing their enjoyment and understanding of heritage, as well as practical heritage skills.

The programme will enable those who live in, or visit, Gainsborough to appreciate the fascinating diversity of heritage, encouraging enthusiasm to preserve it. A well-developed and fully costed programme of community engagement activities has been created and will be overseen by a well-qualified and highly experienced activities co-ordinator, Theresa Workman.

She said: “One of my aims for this project is to be able to build a generation of people who understand the history of the town a bit better and see Gainsborough become a beautiful and attractive heritage destination.”

Theresa has also worked in Gainsborough previously as community engagement officer at Gainsborough Old Hall.

A lifeline has also been given to Gainsborough’s Trinity Arts Centre, which was forced to close its doors in March due to the pandemic.

Craig Sanders, Trinity Arts Centre manager, submitted the bid for funding and is thrilled the arts centre was included in the funding allocation: “This is vital funding at a critical time, not just for our venue but for many up and down the UK.

“This funding will allow us to deliver performances moving forward in a Covid compliant manner and helps us to prepare for future challenges.”

The arts centre, which is run by West Lindsey District Council, has not had any cinema screenings or live performances since it closed but lots of community groups including dance and drama classes have used the space.

One of Gainsborough’s top tourist attractions will remain closed until at least the summer of this year.

Gainsborough Old Hall, which is over 500 years old, has been run by Lincolnshire County Council under its current arrangement since 1995, but in 2019 the council advised English Heritage it did not wish to continue running the hall.

English Heritage took over the management of the 15th-century medieval manor house located on Parnell Street from 1st November 2020 and has decided it will remain closed until the summer.

Andrea Selley, English Heritage’s territory director for the North, said: “Like so many charities, the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has been significant for English Heritage. Gainsborough Old Hall is one of more than 400 historic sites in our care, and we remain completely committed to the protection of each and every one.

“However, in light of the ongoing pandemic, we do now have to revise our plans for the immediate future at Gainsborough Old Hall. For this reason, we have taken the difficult decision that the Old Hall will not reopen until at least summer 2021.

“We’d like to reassure everyone who loves the site that our commitment to Gainsborough with the Old Hall at its heart is unwavering. It may take a bit longer than we’d hoped, but we will ensure that over the coming months and years we work with the community to create a bright future in the town for this historic gem.”

Will Mason, head of heritage and culture at Lincolnshire County Council, added: “We are, of course, disappointed that due to Covid the opening date has been pushed back, and continue to work with English Heritage to understand the implications this will have.”

Gainsborough Old Hall is one of four of Lincolnshire County Council’s heritage sites that remains closed. The other three are the Museum of Lincolnshire Life and the Usher Gallery in Lincoln, and Discover Stamford.

Gainsborough’s new crematorium, Lea Fields, has picked up a top honour in a national awards competition which celebrates the very best in local government frontline services.

It has been voted the Best Service Team of the Year in The APSE (Association for Public Service Excellence) annual service awards, beating five other local authorities.

West Lindsey chief executive, Ian Knowles, said: “This year has been a real challenge for everyone at West Lindsey District Council – but one of our significant achievements of 2020 has been the opening of Lea Fields Crematorium, a £6m venture to bring a crematorium into the district.

“I am incredibly thankful to everyone who has worked so tirelessly to not only make this happen, but to continue to make it happen throughout the pandemic.

“Staff have put themselves in bubbles, worked around the clock and adapted incredibly throughout the year.”

Crematorium manager, Deborah Balsdon said: “It is a privilege to work at Lea Fields, and despite all the many challenges and obstacles we have faced this year, I am humbled and thankful to my staff for everything they have done.”

The facility, which was officially opened in January 2020, was also highly commended in the East Midlands LABC Building Excellence Awards for Best Small Commercial Project and Best Public Service Building.

Bransby Horses, one of the UK’s largest equine welfare and rescue charities, has been significantly impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic with an estimated revenue loss of over £500,000.

Throughout each temporary closure, their teams have continued to care for 300-plus equines and new arrivals, as they pursue vital external welfare work to help equines in need across the UK.

Like many horses that initially come to Bransby, handsome Poseidon, an 18hh Shire, arrived shortly after the first lockdown was lifted with a myriad of problems causing him immense discomfort; Poseidon’s feet were extremely overgrown causing horrendous damage to the bones within his feet.

Never in the 52-year history of Bransby Horses has your support been more needed. A regular donation of just £3 per month will help them to continue to rescue and support more horses, ponies, donkeys and mules, just like Poseidon.

Wright Vigar has been operating for over 40 years and offers all the services you would expect from a reputable Chartered Accountancy firm. Not content with simply ‘doing the books’, they also add value by taking a close look at all aspects of their clients’ business and financial affairs, to help them to achieve their aspirations.

Wright Vigar works with business owners and private individuals, providing not only the traditional accountancy and taxation services but also bespoke technology solutions and assistance with cloud accounting software. In these most challenging of times they are working hard to become their clients’ most trusted advisor.

Launched in 2019, Bearded Fishermen is a mental health awareness and suicide prevention charity which offers support to anyone in Lincolnshire with mental health issues or suicidal thoughts, with the aim to prevent loss of life in many of the county’s “suicide hotspots”.

Founded by two like-minded friends, Rick Roberts and Mick Leyland, who share a passion for angling, the 16-strong team of dedicated volunteers at this Gainsborough-based charity, who are all fully trained, provide vital help for vulnerable people of all ages, working closely with local police and ambulance services.

“We have a 24/7 call centre accessed via a Freephone number and provide support and counselling for people in need,” explains Rick, who has gained a mental health diploma, as well as a good insight into helping those most vulnerable through his own previous experiences.

“We also run a Nightwatch project providing crisis intervention which works in conjunction with our call centre and aims to look out for vulnerable people at known locations. Our team say a good night is when we don’t find anyone.”

The charity, which also assists in searches for missing persons, has a number of much needed fundraising initiatives planned and is also calling for additional volunteers to join the team.

“Anyone over the age of 18, from all walks of life, can help us by volunteering,” says Rick. “You don’t need previous experience or qualifications as we will provide all the training you need, with various courses, including safeguarding and mental health care. Our door is always open to all.”

Gainsborough-based training company Riverside Training joined the Acis Group family back in September and has its virtual doors open for you.

“We haven’t let the Covid-19 pandemic stop us as our fantastic team are on hand to support the people of Gainsborough and the wider communities. Whether it’s support in finding work, learning new skills or looking after your health and wellbeing – Riverside is here to help.”

Courses include accredited qualifications, basic skills such as maths and English, arts and crafts, IT, health and wellbeing. But that’s not all, Riverside Training also has a range of wider opportunities such as support with building your CV, building confidence and how to ace a job interview.

And you can do this all from the comfort of your own home. Their experienced tutors deliver courses virtually, so you don’t even have to worry about leaving the house.

“We are not one size fits all – our services are shaped by you.”

“Safe. Reliable. Personal. Here at Acis HomePlus, our values haven’t changed, even if the world around us has. As part of Acis Group, we’ve been working hard to adapt our services to suit the unique and expanding needs of our customers all over Gainsborough.”

With many of us spending more time at home than ever before, you want to be sure that yours or your family’s homes are as safe and comfortable as possible. Because the harsh reality of this pandemic is that some of us won’t have seen another person in weeks – others, months. And for the more vulnerable members of our communities, the risks of living alone go beyond loneliness. For them, a slip in the bathroom might mean more than just a trip to the first-aid kit.

The pandemic has put a pin in many of our plans this year, but when it comes to accessibility and future-proofing your home, there’s no time to waste. From wet rooms and walk-in showers to ramps and handrails, the Acis HomePlus team specialises in delivering quality adaptations at a price and style that suits you.

“When it comes to keeping you and your family happy and healthy, we know you expect nothing less than the best service delivered in the safest way possible. From planning and funding to Covid-safe installations and waste disposal, you can be sure you’re in safe hands at every step of the adaptations process.”

Safe. Reliable. Personal.

All you’ve got to do is open the door.

Could you use a hand future-proofing your home? Why not give Acis HomePlus a try?

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