In shape for the 21st Century

Words by:
Glynis Fox
Featured in:
April 2011

New leisure spending, revamped shops and exciting investments are causing a buzz in a North Lincolnshire town. Changes underway in Scunthorpe are something to shout about following the release of a retail report which revealed a rise in empty shop units in 2010 – in common with many other towns and cities.
North Lincolnshire Council Tourism and Town Centres manager Christine Edwards said: “Like all towns and cities in the UK, Scunthorpe has felt the effects of the Recesssion, during the last year, as closures have hit our high streets and retail parks.

“But things are now looking far more positive. At a time when the rest of the leisure and cultural sector in the UK is bracing itself for cuts and closures, we are about to open two first-class sport and leisure facilities.”

This summer is due to see the launch of The Pods – an innovative and high quality sport and leisure centre in Central Park – which should put Scunthorpe firmly on the map as a first class leisure destination.

It features a unique design because it is made up of connected domes, each covered in natural materials. The Pods houses a twenty-five metre swimming pool, a training pool, state-of-the-art gym and dance studio, together with a six-court sports hall, café and crèche.

“Then, in the autumn, North Lincolnshire Council’s Baths Hall will open. This is a brand new, state-of-the-art venue, hosting top quality live music, comedy and theatre. There will also be community events and conferences,” said Mrs Edwards.

SMG Europe Holdings Ltd will manage the venue and it is no stranger to the stars, having presented internationally acclaimed artists, including Madonna, the Vienna Philharmonic, Peter Kay and Kasabian.

Mrs Edwards said artistes such as Jamie Cullum, Jack Jones, The Saturdays, Kate Nash, The Streets, Dizzee Rascal and many more top names from the worlds of comedy, musical theatre and dance, are expected to perform at The Baths Hall.

The Local Data Company report – which revealed a snapshot of the ‘health of the high street’ during 2010, reported that Scunthorpe had a 19.9 per cent vacancy rate for empty shops – a rise of 1.5 per cent on its 2009 findings.

But Mrs Edwards said that the town had actually fared better than most other regional towns and cities.

“In the not too distant future these vacancies will be filled and we will actually need to increase the size of our town centre as exciting new developments dramatically increase our population,” she said.

That confidence is driven by a variety of factors, including the promise of significant business investment in and around the South Humber Gateway – the last remaining UK development site which fronts a deep water estuary. Development of land in this area is attracting private and public sector investment worth more than £3 billion.

“The new jobs and new homes that this development will bring means that the Council is looking to work with serious developers and investors to create a natural town centre retail extension in Scunthorpe,” said Mrs Edwards.

“With the right partners on board, the Council will put forward some of its prime town centre land, which has never previously been available for commercial use.

“Exclusive new opportunities are available in Scunthorpe for retail developments, restaurants, brasseries and café bars, a town centre boutique hotel and commercial office accommodation,” she said.

But back to shopping – what’s on offer for residents and visitors to the town?

“Scunthorpe has a great mix of quality independent retailers and multi-nationals. At the top end of the High Street we have a good selection of independent, family-run businesses, several of which have recently expanded to meet their customers’ needs,” said Mrs Edwards.

“It’s the quality of service and the choice they can offer which makes these businesses so successful and many have won national awards for their standards of customer care. They also attract customers from across Yorkshire and Lincolnshire.”

“We also have a thriving traditional market in the heart of the town, with a food hall that is open six days a week. The traditional butcher, fishmonger and greengrocer are proving increasingly popular with customers who are attracted by the great value, quality and choice.

“There is a move away from spending Saturday waiting in the supermarket checkout queue. People want to know more about their food and to chat to their butcher about recipe ideas and cookery tips,” said Mrs Edwards.

Market days are Friday and Saturday and traders include craft and hobby suppliers, who are attracting crafters from a wide area in search of wools, ribbons, speciality papers and even fishing supplies.

“Some stalls in the Old Hall are being refurbished and a new entertainment and exhibition area created. Our aim is to put the market back at the heart of the town centre community, where it belongs.”

On Thursdays, Ashby Market becomes the focus of the local community, selling everything from fish and vegetables to collectables and jewellery.

North Lincolnshire Council is working with retailers and developers countrywide in an effort to attract new names to Scunthorpe, but Mrs Edwards said the authority is not just interested in ‘household names’, it also wants to help local businesses to grow and reach their full potential.

“One trend which we have seen is for people who have been made redundant to open their own market stall. With rents starting from as little as £10, this is a great way to test an idea and many well-known retailers started out this way,” said Mrs Edwards.

The demolition of the former Club 2000 in the town centre has allowed the Council to increase the size of Church Square.

Now a programme of speciality markets and events are planned – to be staged in this area over the summer months.

Shopaholics are spoilt-for-choice in Scunthorpe which boasts two dedicated areas with plenty to offer anyone in search of retail therapy!

Whoever you are and whatever your needs, The Parishes Shopping Centre is definitely worth seeking out – and, as we went to press, we understood that all the units in this area have now been snapped-up.

The Parishes boasts more than twenty well-known, high street stores, including H&M, Greggs, Wilkinson, HMV, Deichmann Shoes, TJ Hughes, Clarkes and Peacocks – and that’s just for starters.

With its convenient central location, and a value-for-money car park and bus station on site – this is an area not to be missed.

But, if shopping isn’t your number one priority, The Parishes is also home to The Vue Cinema. And with seven screens offering films to suit all tastes, and discounts for students and citizens, what more could you want?

You could say that ‘staying local’ has never been so interesting!

North Lincolnshire Council’s Tourism and Town Centres manager Christine Edwards added: “BhS is now located in The Parishes. This outlet was the second of its Concept Stores opened in the UK and it has extended the range of goods available to shoppers, to include lighting, homewares and furniture.”

Meanwhile, Primark is now putting the finishing touches to its total revamp of the old BhS store on the town’s High Street – ready for opening this month (April).

TopShop and TopMan have also recently benefited from a major refurbishment and the independent jeweller, Leggotts, in Ravendale Street has recently doubled in size.

The Foundry’s centre manager Peter Golightly said that it enjoys a central position in the town – in the middle of the High Street, between Scunthorpe Market, The Parishes Shopping Centre and the rest of the High Street. “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. The centre is family friendly, with child safe wristbands available in the mall,” said Mr Golightly.

“There are 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 Foundry features more than forty-five traditional retailers and some independent stores. It also has space for promotions and retail stands.

“Early indications for this year show that the business outlook could be improving. Spend in some of our shops is on the increase compared with this time last year. We have a few available units and with more interest from retailers wanting space in The Foundry, than at this time last year, along with the upcoming opening of Primark, we hope to be bringing more retailers into the town as the year progresses,” added Mr Golightly.

Last year nearly £16,000.00 was raised through events and charity collections in the centre.

Organisations which benefited included MacMillan Cancer Support, Lindsey Lodge Hospice, Help for Heroes, The Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal, North Lincolnshire HomeStart, Scunthorpe Hospital Radio and Guide Dogs for the Blind.

If asked to name their favourite choral works, there is little doubt that Handel’s ‘Messiah’ would be amongst the choice of most music lovers.

You will have chance to hear a large full scale performance on Saturday, 2nd April at The House, Brumby Wood Lane, Scunthorpe at 7.30pm.

All 115 members of Scunthorpe and District Choral Society will be joined by twenty-five senior singers from the Scunthorpe Co-operative Junior Choir, the Cantata Orchestra and four top professional soloists with Conductor Susan Hollingsworth to produce an unforgettable performance of this mighty work.

The skilful players of the Cantata Orchestra will accompany the choir with soloists Rachel Robinson, soprano, Jill Turner, contralto, Austin Gunn, tenor Neil Baker, bass. Jill Turner is a well known local professional singer and the other three soloists have all won major prizes and competitions and have performed with famous conductors in most major music venues in this country and internationally.

Tickets are priced at £12.00, students and children £5.00

They can be obtained from Scunthorpe General Library (01724 860161) and The Plowright Theatre (01724 277733).

Some tickets will be made available on the door on the evening of the performance.

Tourism is worth £167 million to North Lincolnshire’s economy and people made more than twenty-three million day visits to check out the area’s attractions in 2010.

Scunthorpe, which offers a diverse range of things to do, naturally played its part in that success.

Art lovers are encouraged to make the most of the 20-21 Visual Arts Centre with its stunning gallery spaces in the former St John’s Church.

Visitors can also take time out and enjoy a performance at the town’s Plowright Theatre, explore North Lincolnshire Museum or take a Steam Railtour around the town’s steelworks.

Nearby, the award-winning Normanby Hall Country Park is also well worth a closer look and people can also get a taste of local produce at the Pink Pig Farm and Coffee Shop.

North Lincolnshire Council has been working with the four-star Forest Pines Hotel and Golf Resort, on the outskirts of town, on an ambitious bid to host The Solheim Cup in 2015, along with associated golfing events.

Now the council has been shortlisted as the UK’s only location in the running to host this prestigious event.

A North Lincolnshire Council spokesperson said: “This eight-year Major Golf Events programme would put Scunthorpe in the spotlight with around 200,000 direct spectators, not to mention millions of worldwide viewers online and via television.

“We are awaiting the final announcement on this once-in-a-lifetime event that would bring fantastic business opportunities,” added the spokesperson.

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