Spalding carries the torch
With the £6.5 million Red Lion Quarter on the brink of a new chapter in its short history and the potential redevelopment of the town’s Holland Market remaining a hot topic of conversation, there’s lots brewing in this South Lincolnshire town.
After hosting another colourful Flower Parade last month, which attracted thousands of new and repeat visitors, attention is once again focused on ways of making Spalding a bigger magnet for shoppers and tourists.
The landmark Red Lion Quarter (RLQ), which was due to be transferred from South Holland District Council to Boston College as we went to press, is putting its earlier troubles behind it and looking to a brighter future.
The College’s plans for the RLQ continue to evolve, but managers believe the complex – which was always designed to showcase Spalding’s long-standing food production expertise and prepare more rising stars for that industry – has huge potential.
The District Council says the RLQ is already home to a clutch of small enterprises – and it is a ‘feelgood factor’ place to do business.
Meanwhile, Corbo – the owner of Holland Market – remains keen to regenerate that part of town, through the extension and redevelopment of the area.
Its vision is to bring in new retail and leisure businesses, which have the potential to create about 400 new jobs. But existing businesses want to know exactly who they might be and what such a move would really mean for them.
Against this backdrop, Spalding remains a destination which is home to family-run and independent businesses, which trade alongside multinationals in the town centre.
On the edge of town, you will find Springfields – which boasts more than fifty outlet stores, which are complemented by the attractive Festival Gardens.
So what is the outlook for the Red Lion Quarter, following South Holland District Council’s agreement to sign over the building to Boston College?
A College spokeswoman said it is planning to increase the number of courses it offers in Spalding, from September, boosting post-16 education in the district.
Many Spalding students have previously had to travel to Stamford, Peterborough and even further afield, but the RLQ campus will provide opportunities for them to study apprenticeships, levels one, two and three and also level four degree courses – not currently available in Spalding.
“We continue operate the Sage Restaurant and also run the small business units and conference facilities and we are working to create a food heritage centre in the Atrium, to showcase the Spalding area’s expertise,” she said.
South Holland District Council leader councillor Nick Worth said: “The RLQ is a superb, convenient and modern place to do business.
A direct and online electrical products supplier, Shop4Electrical, has based its call centre at the RLQ.
Managing director, Christine Cross said: “It is an impressive, state-of-the-art building, perfectly positioned in the very heart of Spalding.
“Our Customer Services Team comprises young, dynamic individuals working in a highly-pressurised environment. To offer that true feelgood factor in the workplace, it was important to me and my company that we offer our staff modern facilities, stress-free transportation i.e. bus, train or bicycle, with the opportunity to meet up and socialise after work with all the facilities that the town offers.”
Lincolnshire Life spoke to Terry Leech of Stylefloors, which specialises in carpets, ceramic and wooden flooring as he was in the process of moving into two of three ground-floor retail units at RLQ.
Mr Leech has decided to switch his business to Spalding, having formerly been based at East Heckington.
“This is a good, modern venue, which should help us to attract more trade because we will be based more in the environment of where our customers will be,” he said.
Meanwhile, Corbo says its vision for revitalising the town’s Holland Market area, promises to help safeguard Spalding’s future and the loss of £132m a year to competing shopping destinations, as well as strengthen links between the town centre and this part of Spalding.
Plans include the potential reconfiguration and expansion of Holland Market to bring in a clutch of new retail and leisure names. There is also talk of demolishing the current bus station and replacing this with a state-of-the-art development in Swan Street.
Corbo is also aiming to acquire the Sir Halley Stewart Sports Field, but says it would replace this with further green space and it is also looking at providing an edge-of-town sports facility.
And it is keen to create a Retail Marketing Fund of about £100,000 to help breathe new life into empty shop units in the town – working with Spalding and District Chamber of Commerce and South Holland District Council to achieve this.
Reflecting on changes at the RLQ and Corbo’s proposals, Spalding Chamber president, Jason Rooke, owner of Rooke’s Pet Products, said: “We welcome the takeover of the RLQ. It means this is of no further cost to the taxpayer. The development has tidied up a grotty area and the latest move is good for the town. The RLQ has got potential.
“Footfall-wise many people are not coming into the town, but our shop vacancy rate is better than many other places. We are looking at the Retail Marketing Fund proposed by Corbo, to help fill the town’s ten currently empty units.
“Retail business in Spalding isn’t good generally, but we are still in a recession. However, we still have many independent traders, including books, department, furnishing, shoe, electrical and jewellery stores, along with florists and cafes.
“The Chamber is aiming to get an improved bus link to Springfields to stop near the Water Taxi stops to create a better service. A lot of people see Springfields as a threat, but it brings two million visitors to the area, so we want to improve links to encourage people to visit both that and the town centre,” said Mr Rooke.
“Corbo’s plans for the Holland Market area are positive, as long as they don’t kill off the main town centre. Any development has to be done carefully, Spalding has to move forward because we lose shoppers to Peterborough and Boston.”
Both Mr Rooke and Christine Hanson, the owner of Bookmark in the town, say that while business is hard in the current economic climate, and shoppers are cautious, independent traders need to be pro-active and market themselves.
Mrs Hanson said: “People want to know more about Corbo’s plans. There are fears about which kind of retailers might come in and what is going to happen to the rest of the town as a result of this development.
“We haven’t got a magic wand, we want to work with this concept, but we don’t want to have two towns; as long as it doesn’t mean that the old town is left behind, we will be fine.”
What to do in Spalding
You can do much more than simply shop while you are in Spalding, so why not check out an historic attraction, enjoy an evening’s entertainment or relax on the water?
Medieval Ayscoughfee Hall, which overlooks the River Welland, is a short walk away from the town centre is well worth a visit. Eighteen months of archaeological and architectural studies, along with a complete revamp, have created an unmissable venue.
There’s a chance to admire the architecture of the building, learn more about the South Holland District through its interactive exhibits and enjoy five acres of beautiful gardens.
If you want to be entertained, there’s bound to be something to suit at the multi-faceted South Holland Centre.
Situated in the town’s Market Place, the Centre is the place to enjoy a film, live entertainment or take part in a workshop, or you can simply just drop in for coffee.
If you love messing about in boats, don’t leave Spalding without taking a mini cruise on the Spalding Water Taxi – which acts as a link between the town and Springfields Outlet Shopping & Festival Gardens.
During your trip along the River Welland and Coronation Canal, you are sure to spot some really interesting wildlife.
During the season the service operates from Monday to Saturday, between 10am and 5pm and on Sundays, between 11am and 5pm.
The Studios, which are based in converted farm buildings form a base for textile, mixed media and community artists and offer a wide range of colourful courses. Unique can also organise arty parties.
A cut above
J F Inkley, situated on the corner of The Crescent in Spalding, is a traditional gentlemen’s outfitters. A family favourite, J F Inkley provides the ultimate in quality, service and choice for the discerning gentleman.
The business was started by Jim Inkley in 1960 and since his death it has been continued by his son, Andrew Inkley and his wife Heather alongside his mother.
The shop is brimming with quality suits which are displayed in various fabrics to suit each season, with the perfect accessories available to complement any style. Although the focus lies with tradition, you will still find the latest styles available.
Although times have changed since the shop welcomed its first customer many years ago, the call for a well-made, quality suit is still apparent. Andrew and his wife pride themselves on offering a personal service which has ensured a steady customer base. They have also never wavered from traditional British names, which have stood them in good stead, with many gentlemen now choosing these names as a preference.
For personal service, and a shop where the customer is king, J F Inkley is well worth a visit.
Spalding gets ready to shine
People in Spalding are excitedly looking forward to welcoming the Olympic Torch Relay.
And for three local people in particular it promises to be a proud moment to treasure.
Guide leader, Amanda Scase and student, Thomas Giddings are part of a ten-strong inspirational team which will run the Spalding leg of the route and more than twenty people who will carry the torch through the district on 4th July.
Amanda (29) is a business risk manager for High Street bank HSBC and was named Citizen of the Year in the 2009 Holland Pride Awards.
“I am so excited to be part of the Torch Relay, not just for me but as a Brownie leader, this is for all the Brownies and Guides with whom I work,” she said.
“I personally take a pride in trying to be a role model for those who need extra encouragement and direction in their lives.”
Spalding A-level student, Thomas Giddings, who volunteers as a LIVES responder, scout leader and as a water sports instructor and rescue boat crew member at Rutland Water, will also be part of the Torch Relay team.
“I couldn’t believe when I heard I had been chosen. When you consider there is a soldier with no legs taking part and a coastguard from Cornwall and then there’s little old me from Spalding,” he said.
The route of the Torch Relay in South Holland will firstly take torchbearers into Spalding on the A151, before moving on to Moulton, Whaplode, Holbeach and finally Long Sutton, where it will complete its South Holland leg at the junction of London Road and Roman Bank.
Spalding is a delightful market town which offers an interesting blend of niche and national name shopping.
In the town centre you will find independent retailers, who are determined to offer something a bit different, trading alongside stores which you see on most of Britain’s High Streets and the Tuesday and Saturday markets too.
In contrast, there is also the Springfields Outlet Shopping Centre and Festival Gardens on the outskirts of the town. Shoppers sometimes head for the town centre or Springfields – or use the Spalding Water Taxi to skip between the two.
Independent stores have an important role to play when it comes to attracting shoppers, because they often have the freedom to be more creative about what they stock.
Some of Spalding’s independents include shoe shop Gibbs of Spalding, which first opened in the town in 1908, J F Inkley menswear, Elderkin & Son (gunmakers) – which was established in 1880 – the popular Hills Department and Furnishing stores, Rooke’s Pet Products and many more.