Initiatives make difference

Words by:
Melanie Burton
Featured in:
September 2017

The thriving south Lincolnshire town of Sleaford is a classic county market town where specialist businesses are vital to the community.
There is a significantly higher proportion of independent retailers among its varied mix of shops than most towns, with small local traders occupying more than three-quarters of all available units in the town centre.

With five new businesses taking up some of the few vacant units in recent weeks, the trading scene remains vibrant and buoyant, attracting almost 250,000 people a month to Southgate during the summer which is a significant uplift over the past couple of years.

Overall Sleaford’s independent retailers account for 78.4% of the total number of traders; which is double the rate for the East Midlands and way above the UK average of 31.5%. Add to this the vast array of specialist businesses, suppliers and services both across the town centre and the outlying business parks, and you quickly realise you don’t need to go far to find what you need.

Promoting and facilitating the economic regeneration of Sleaford – and in particular the vibrancy of its high street – is one of North Kesteven District Council’s key priorities. Through the continuation of a number of proactive initiatives over the years it actively seeks to enhance the opportunities for businesses to relocate, settle and grow in the town, both in and around the main shopping area and also on the industrial estates and business parks.

A number of these are building in momentum and gathering pace as partnership approaches with businesses, organisations and other agencies begin to reap dividends.

One of these is in a piece of work to review traffic movements around the town to ensure optimum opportunity for people to get about whilst enhancing the environment for shoppers, pedestrians and visitors.

Through partnership with Sleaford Town Council all options are being assessed for reinvigorating the popularity and fortunes of the traditional market, respecting its part in supporting the broader regeneration of the town.

The town council is also a partner, along with Historic England in a grant fund that promotes the restoration and reinstatement of historic shopfronts and features in line with historic evidence.

More partnership relations sit behind the Heart of Sleaford Project with the aim of reinvigorating the Bristol Arcade, reinstating the historic community asset of the Corn Exchange, creating new public space and walkways linking parts of the town currently closed to public access to Moneys Yard and opening up new retail and leisure opportunities.

On a much broader scale the town was fortunate to secure £2m in Growth Point funding through the Greater Lincolnshire Local Enterprise Partnership which will primarily be used to open up opportunities and potential for regeneration and growth; principally improvements to the local road network to allow new housing, employment land and jobs to be delivered which is key to meeting the aspirations of the Sleaford Masterplan and Central Lincolnshire Local Plan.

Through the Local Plan, Sleaford is poised to take a significant chunk of the new jobs opportunities and 12% of overall housing growth as it remains a highly desirable location in which to live and work.

Sleaford Market Place has developed a real sense of place – or plaza – following the reinstatement of awning canopies to a range of shopfronts.

Through the allocation of grant funding for the renovation of historic shop frontages, smart red and orange awnings have so far been installed above six of the shop units within the so-called Tudor Building in the Market Place, a distinct black and white structure creating a strong focal point in the town.

These were restored, replaced and reinstated with new mechanisms made to match the originals and boxes for their discreet stowage.

This was the first of a series of projects to be supported through a programme that has the potential to inject more than £500,000 into an improved streetscene for Sleaford as historic shopfronts are restored and reinstated in line with their traditional condition by applying design principles, finishes and materials in keeping with their heritage.

The fund is made up of £150,000 put up by North Kesteven District and Sleaford Town councils, matched by Heritage England to give a total of £300,000 which contributes grants of between 60% and 80% towards certain aspects of identified and approved works; the balance met by the property owner.

The emphasis is on high-profile properties of historic value within certain parts of the town centre Conservation Area, where maximum impact can be made in protecting the area’s characteristic style.

Within a year the long-held aspirations to make better use of the space behind Bristol Arcade and the Corn Exchange in Sleaford should result in new retail and leisure opportunities and new public access.

Initial Listed Building Consent and the approval in principle of a further shopfronts improvement grant are the latest stages in realising the Heart of Sleaford project to link the Market Place to Money’s Yard via new walking routes, business units and a bridge over the River Slea.

Key to the project are the buildings collectively known as the Corn Exchange where there are ongoing Indian and Italian restaurant operations alongside a substantial empty shop, and significant buildings behind.

Through the project the detail of historic frontages lost to time would be reinstated, removing unsympathetic alterations at the front and improving a key location in a bid to open it up for future retail use.

Building owner Robert Hodgson is a central player within a partnership of public, private and community-based organisations all seeking to bring Heart of Sleaford to fruition.

He hoped that the substantial amount of work that has been going on behind the scenes would start to bear fruit before Christmas, with the shopfront improvements to be actioned in the New Year.

“The shopfront scheme has played a vital role in enhancing the townscape and will, I’m sure, continue to do so,” said Robert. “It’s a scheme that worked well in Grantham and will bring a real lift to Sleaford. It’s so good that the scheme is available to bring forward the restoration of shopfronts in a way, and to a standard and level of detail that may not otherwise be carried out without the financial and technical support of the programme.

“I give credit to NKDC for getting it off the ground as what we end up with will far outlive any of us and do so much to enhance the beauty and distinctiveness that Sleaford already has.”

Another scheme which has proved highly successful is the pop-up shop scheme and at least two businesses in the town will be staying open following a successful trial in the scheme.

Gills 2 Gems and Little and Loud Photography, a handbag and clothing store and photography studio respectively, have been testing the waters in Navigation Yard, Sleaford since the end of February and both have decided to stay open as fully-fledged businesses.

Gill Allenby, owner of Gills 2 Gems, said: “The pop-up shop has been invaluable as I’ve been able to see how my store works, what times are the best for opening and if it has a viable future. I’m so happy that it’s proved to be a real success and am delighted to be staying in business in the same unit where I’ve run the pop-up shop.

“I could not have done it without the help of the team at North Kesteven District Council. Their advice and support has been amazing. I look forward to welcoming shoppers to my store and continuing to do business in Sleaford.”

Charlotte Frisby, owner of Little and Loud Photography, said: “To be able to take the next step and commit to a permanent studio at Navigation Yard is fantastic. I’ve been working with The Prince’s Trust to build up my business plan and idea and this now feels like the natural next step.

“I’m over the moon to be staying in Navigation Yard and can’t wait to welcome more people through the doors to capture their moments on camera.”

The pop-up shop initiative has been run by Partnership NK, of which NKDC is a member, to give new and existing businesses the chance to test the market place without the commitment of a long-term contract.

Chairman Herman Kok said: “We’re delighted that Gills 2 Gems and Little and Loud Photography will be staying open.

“It’s pleasing to see the project has been a success overall and we’d like to see it continue. If there are any landlords with vacant units that would like to host a pop up shop we’d be more than happy to work with them to see if we can make this happen.”

A new arts & heritage trail featuring eighteen distinctive bronze artworks has been installed in Sleaford.

When in Sleaford… has been commissioned by North Kesteven District Council through artsNK in partnership with William Alvey School, and is part funded by the Sleaford Renewable Energy Plant. artsNK worked with artist David Mackie to develop the series of detailed cast bronze roundels inspired by Sleaford’s heritage.

The artworks act as way-markers, mapping out pathways through and around the town, and informing residents and visitors about existing public artworks, historical sites and places to visit including The National Centre for Craft & Design, Sleaford Museum, Navigation House and Cogglesford Mill and Sleaford Leisure centre.

The roundels explore themes of archaeology, history, geography, architecture, and natural history, as well as taking inspiration from artworks in the town.

The trail is expected to be launched next year.

Sleaford area fish and chip shop restaurant chain Elite is celebrating after winning a national award.

The business won the Big Heart award in the National Family Business Awards which recognises the work they do in the community and with local charities.

Rachel Tweedale, manager at the Elite’s Sleaford restaurant, said: “To win awards is fantastic for both the business and for us personally as a family.

“At a business level, it is incredibly rewarding for our staff who give 100% day in day out and recognises that it is because of their hard work that we are able to enter and win such awards, especially those that are relevant to our industry. It is also good for our customers. Their continued support has allowed us to grow over the years and the awards reflect how they have helped us to do this.

“Personally, I feel very proud of the awards we have won, particularly the Big Heart National Family Business Award. We are proud to be a part of the Sleaford community and to be recognised for the work we have done in giving back is really humbling.

“Year on year we have seen continual growth which is fantastic, even more so because we have been able to employ more people from the local community,” Rachel said.

Completion of the first phase of a £500,000 revamp of The Riverside Shopping Centre in Sleaford is imminent and this has opened the door to fresh retail and restaurant opportunities in the Town Centre – suited to local traders and national companies.

Lincolnshire Co-operative has spent seven months giving the Southgate Shopping Centre, which features seventeen trading units and residential accommodation at first floor level over some premises, a substantial facelift.

Parts of the complex have also been restyled and new leases are now available for a variety of sized units within the centre, which is anchored by Costa Coffee and Card Factory.

Lincoln based Banks Long & Co are looking to attract local and national retailers and restaurateurs to Riverside and the agents have already had a decent level of early interest in the revitalised development.

Shoppers can also walk through Riverside to a Sainsbury’s store and a car park with 100 spaces.

Redevelopment of a landmark town centre location will provide a catalyst for further regeneration of Sleaford and increase the town’s appeal to new, large-scale retailers.

Approval by North Kesteven District Council’s planning committee of Melbourne Holdings Ltd’s scheme for the corner of Southgate and Station Road responds to an unmet demand for larger premises with flexibility to accommodate modern retail requirements.

Together with recent approval for further small retail units, this scheme meets a number of the Sleaford Masterplan and Town Centre Visioning objectives for the visual enhancement of Sleaford town centre and promotion of its economic vibrancy.

Embraced as a ’striking’ building that makes the most of its corner location, it brings something fresh to the Sleaford streetscene whilst drawing on other buildings in the town to provide a gateway feature.

Arranged over three storeys, it offers retail or leisure space on ground and first floors that could accommodate a single user or two or more units dependent on the needs of the ultimate end users.

Above, there is scope for up to four offices which is currently in limited supply locally, and a roof garden.

A colonnade feature widens the pavement for pedestrians and opaque high-level cladding could be illuminated as a distinct feature, creating a building of unique character, improving the overall impression of this part of the town and setting a positive tone for the broader retail scene.

Economic development manager Alan Gray said the ultimate scheme was the result of positive engagement to achieve a solution that would ‘prove to be highly attractive to the retail industry’ and introduce more variety in the range of shops.

“The approved design provides a statement building that creates a positive impression, and meets a number of the Council’s objectives for the enhancement of Sleaford as a place to live, work, shop and enjoy leisure time,” he said.

Robert Doughty Consultancy, a multi-disciplinary town planning, architecture and landscape architecture practice, obtained the planning permission to redevelop and refurbish this section of buildings in Southgate.

RIBA Chartered Architect Craig Smith explained: “We secured planning permission for a new office and retail building on a corner of Southgate. It totals 16,000 sq ft.

“We are demolishing several existing buildings and we have also obtained planning permission to refurbish the shopfronts and renovate the building next door.

“For a small Lincolnshire town, this will be a large modern building on a prominent corner of the town centre to include 12,000 sq ft of total retail space. This redevelopment will provide a landmark gateway to the town centre.”

The project is aimed at improving the character of the High Street.

“The new building will improve the streetscene. It is the first thing you see when entering the town from the south and due to the way the building steps-out in the street, it will also be visible when exiting the train station. The new building should attract more people to go down that part of the high street,” Craig said.

“We are hoping to get a national retailer in there. There has been an outflux of retailers in Sleaford and one reason is thought to be that there isn’t a buliding there to move into.

“It is meeting the need for bigger office space. There are a lot of smaller businesses who are in cramped Georgian buildings but there is not really an offering of open plan office buildings.”

From carpets, rugs and flooring to furniture and interior accessories, Paul Lobley and his team at PM Carpets and Interior Design offer something for everyone.

“After leaving the Royal Navy I fell into carpet fitting,” explains owner Paul. “Opening the shop was a natural progression for me, and this was followed with the addition of the new interior and design part of the business. I have a passion for country and rustic interiors and wanted to offer something different to other competitor’s shops locally.”

Customers can choose from a wide range of products including carpets, laminates, oak flooring, vinyl flooring and rugs, as well as sheep, deer and cow hides and skins. French and country style furniture, bedding, wallpaper, curtains and other interior accessories are also available to add that unique design to any home.

For all the latest styles and trends, customers will find Sleaford’s most extensive selection at PM Carpets and Interior Design. Visit the shop at 3a Northgate, Sleaford.,

Another bespoke Sleaford area business helping to spread the town’s name is Angelic Delights which is a home run business based in the small neighbouring village of Ruskington. The business was first set up on New Year’s Day 2016 after owner and cake maker Angela Hawkins had left the RAF.

“I had always wanted to own my own cake business, so it seemed like the natural way to go forward, especially as I already had the skillset,” Angela said. “And since starting the business, it has gone from strength to strength and I get fully booked very quickly.”

Angela set up a contract with Heckington Windmill to source her flour from, as it is freshly stone ground. She has also recently set up another contract with Primrose Free Range Egg Farm in Wragby.

Angelic Delights provides exquisite wedding cakes and custom bespoke cakes – ranging from birthday cakes to wedding cakes, including cupcakes. It offers fourteen flavours and also caters for Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Vegan/Vegetarian and Diabetic requirements.

Angela is an ex-military RAF Chef having served more than 17 years in the RAF.

“During this time, I specialised in cakes from birthdays to weddings,” she said. “I also competed in national competitions in both cakes and sugar flowers winning many awards including Gold Best in Class on two occasions, Salon Culinaire and Hotelympia.”

Owner and head chef John Clark has transformed a typical country pub into an acclaimed, award-winning restaurant which attracts customers from far and wide.

John’s flair in the kitchen and his passion for fresh, locally produced ingredients has helped establish The Queens Head in Kirkby La Thorpe as a first class dining experience.

His menus feature the best in English cuisine given a modern twist, served in luxurious, informal surroundings. All the food is homemade on the premises with the emphasis on freshness, variety and choice. There is a splendid selection of breads, fresh fish, meat and seasonal vegetables.

The restaurant serves food from 12noon to 2.30pm and 6pm to 9.30pm Monday to Saturday, and from 12noon to 8.30pm on Sunday. As well as serving quality food, on a Friday and Saturday evening the dining experience is enhanced with vocal entertainment.

As autumn approaches thoughts are turning to Christmas and customers are advised to book early for the festive season. Throughout December a special menu will be on offer for those wishing to celebrate with family, friends and colleagues. On Christmas Day customers are encouraged to dress up in black tie style to make the occasion extra special.

Bookings are also being taken for the New Year’s Eve celebrations.

Sleaford is well known for its specialist businesses and Lincs Carpet & Oven Care is one which is helping to put the town on the map. Set up by John Crust seven years ago when he spotted a gap in the market in this area, it continues to go from strength to strength.

“I thought there was a good opportunity to start up a carpet cleaning company,” he explained. “I first started just cleaning carpets but moved into upholstery within the first six months.”

After working for some letting agents, child care centres and old people’s homes, John found himself doing contract work in the first year, so decided to start cleaning ovens as well.

“I saw the opportunity in the market to add the two together which worked really well with the letting agent / end of lease cleaning and over the past three years I’ve also added oven repairs to my list of services. Business has been good this year with all my repeat customers and new customers coming back for another year to take advantage of my services and competitive prices. I’m hoping to top last year’s 350 ovens cleaned in 2016.”

John offers a range of services including carpet cleaning, upholstery cleaning, oven hob extractor cleaning and oven repairs covering the Lincoln, Grantham and Seaford areas, to the coast and all the villages in between.

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