Town on the Slea shapes its future

Words by:
Glynis Fox
Featured in:
January 2011

Putting Sleaford under the microscope so the right choices can be made
By 2036 the Sleaford area could be home to as many as 25,000 people – but it is today’s residents who are playing a key role in helping to shape it into an even better place in which to live, work and play.

Sleaford is already a popular market town, but North Kesteven District Council (NKDC) said that people from all parts of the community have been keen to have their say on how it should develop for future generations to enjoy.

And the authority is continuing to get good feedback as the Sleaford Masterplan consultation process, which has been underway for about six months, finally draws to a close on 7th January.

Ultimately, the finalised Masterplan – which is due to be adopted by the Council in April – aims to ensure the ‘right’ choices are made in the future, when major decisions are taken which will affect the local economy, schools, jobs and services for residents.

NKDC leader Councillor Marion Brighton, consultant Gillespies, business and community leaders, shared their views following a two-day public exhibition at The Source, in Southgate, which attracted more than 400 people.

Gillespies, which has been running workshops and gathering people’s views over past few months, said the exercise has put today’s Sleaford under the microscope and highlighted what is working well in the town. But it has also explored what changes need to be made to ensure the town is successful in twenty-five years time.

A good ‘game plan’ is important when you stop to consider that Sleaford was home to just 8,000 people in 1981. By 2001 that number had risen to 14,500. Now the town has a population of 18,000.

Gillespies’ partner Michael Sharp said: “Sleaford is, broadly, a nice place but the traffic congestion is terrible. We need to look at that. We have looked at ways around the town centre loop and at how people are crossing town, as well as at parking issues.

“Sleaford attracts people, the schools are fantastic and the crime rate is low, but we need to think about where new homes should go and whether we might eventually need another school.” said Mr Sharp.

Sleaford is well-known for being a friendly town and Gillespies said there is a strong community spirit, but the variety of shopping on offer could be better for a market town of its size.

Many people have said it would be great if Sleaford had a proper cinema and maybe a bowling alley and a concert venue. Gillespies’ has put forward proposals which are designed to unlock Sleaford’s potential, make it easier for shoppers and visitors to walk around the town centre.

Others look at transforming Money’s Yard, making the Market Place a focal point and at ways of capitalising on the town’s waterside areas.

Transport and parking are key issues, and the proposals include those for a circle of car parks around the edge of the town, the replacement of the one-way traffic system, the addition of cycle routes and more frequent buses (but covering fewer routes).

Action is suggested to make the streets more user-friendly for shoppers and visitors, without excluding vehicles, and the proposals also include improving the Market Place at its junction with Southgate.

NKDC leader Councillor Marion Brighton said: “Money’s Yard should no longer be a car park. We should be having small independent shops in there to make it an interesting niche area. There will still be plenty of car parking if Tesco goes ahead with its new store, which will have 580 car parking spaces.

Southgate is a major area for shopping, but if we had interesting links to other areas, people could wander around and this would ultimately make the whole place more interesting.”

Councillor Mrs Brighton said she is very pleased with the public response to consultation.

Sleaford Regeneration Group, which is made up of about forty representatives from all sections of the community, has been heavily engaged in the exercise.

Chairman, the Reverend Canon John Patrick said: “We are not looking at something which is going to happen tomorrow or in the next twelve to twenty-four months. It is a much longer-term thing.

“But we are not writing anything in concrete either. These are possibilities that we can look at, which excite us. They are about what can be realised in the future for the benefit of the town and the people living here and in the surrounding areas.

“Why do this now when there is no money around? We are putting in place the starting points. We trust in time that the whole situation will improve and this will put Sleaford in a good position because the building blocks for the future will be in place.”

Canon Patrick said that the Regeneration Group is keen to continue meeting in some form and to have a real influence on the development of Sleaford in the future.

Sleaford BID (Business Improvement District) manager Emma Batty said: “We are pleased to see a positive framework being put in place for the town.

“We have been involved from the start of this process and feel it is very important for a town like Sleaford to have a direction which will guide any future developments.

“The Masterplan provides this, not only for residents, but for businesses and for future investment in the local economy. It’s important that everyone in Sleaford has their say on these plans and we would urge everyone to participate in the consultation process through NKDC.”

The finalised report will go to the Homes & Communities Agency, Lincolnshire County Council and NKDC. It will be adopted in April 2011 and long term will feed into the planning process.

The Hub National Centre for Craft & Design claims to be the largest venue in England entirely dedicated to the exhibition, celebration and promotion of international craft and design – and it attracts some fantastic displays.

Housed in a stunning conversion of a nineteenth century seed warehouse (Hubbard Seeds), the Hub presents eleven contemporary craft and design work exhibitions each year.

Always keen to support semi and non-professional local artists, the annual exhibition The Hub Presents (15th January to 13th February) kickstarts the New Year with the Contemporary Crafts Network taking centre stage.

Ceramics, glass and metal artists have joined forces to combine their knowledge and skills to produce eight collaborative artworks. In addition, The Window Space – located in the building’s main thoroughfares – will continue to present stunning displays of work by recent graduates.

The 2011 season opens on 29th January with a lavish display of footwear by the queen of British fashion, Dame Vivienne Westwood.

Based around a collection of shoes amassed over the past fifteen years by a private collector, this exhibition spans the entirety of the designer’s high fashion career, from the 1970s onwards and showcases some of her most opulent, innovative and iconic examples of shoe design.

Complementing the Main Gallery exhibition is Peacocks and Pinstripes, a collection of iconic images portraying the often-neglected world of men’s fashion over the past seventy years.

Many of the sartorial legends of the past century are represented in an eclectic mix of photographs, each capturing the mood of its particular era, including: The Duke of Windsor, the Rolling Stones, Roger Moore’s James Bond, Richard Gere and David Beckham.

Also running from 29th January to 2nd May is ‘How Does Your Garden Grow?’ (Suzi McLaughlin).

The Hub, which is open year-round, also has its own shop, packed with unique gifts, and a cafe.

There’s lots to enjoy now in Sleaford, including great riverside walks, leisure centre activities, entertainment and eating out.

On the shopping front, in addition to national retailers there are long-standing family and home-ground enterprises, who are all keen to offer a quality, friendly service. They attract customers from a wide catchment too.

Names that spring to mind include builders merchant Turnbull & Co Ltd, which has been going for more than 100 years and Bennet Panton Furnishing in Northgate, which celebrates its fortieth anniversary in 2011.

Then there is the independent bookseller Walkers and the well-known jeweller Moore & Scrupps, as well as Sentiments in the Riverside Centre, which is run by Dean and Wendy Peacock.

On the entertainments front, there is The Playhouse, which is home to the Sleaford Little Theatre. And you might want to take in a film being shown by the Sleaford Community Cinema.

If you love art, ceramics, textiles and exciting one-off collectables, you’ll find The Hub an irresistible temptation.

Sleaford Playhouse was restored to use as a performance venue in 2000, but it dates back to 1825, when it was originally built as a theatre for Joseph Smedley, a bookbinder, printer and stationer, as well as a comedian and manager of a small travelling theatre.

Sleaford Little Theatre Company bought The Playhouse in 1994 with a view to restoring it and, although it had sufficient money to purchase the building, extra funding came from sources such as the Foundation for Sports and Arts and Wren Recycling, plus local benefactors and sponsors.

Since being given a new lease of life, it has staged a diverse range of productions over the last ten years, including JB Priestley’s ‘An Inspector Calls’, Daphne du Maurier’s ‘Rebecca’, and comedies, including the television programme ‘Allo, Allo.’

Not only is The Playhouse home to the Sleaford Little Theatre, it is also a venue for touring drama, amateur and professional music of all genres, talks, fundraising and performing arts class, and it can be hired privately too.

Sleaford Community Cinema (SCC) aims to create a community venue and screen some of the latest popular releases. Previously based at The Hub – as a non-profit company manned by volunteers to bring the cinema back to the town – the venture recently received a £10,000 grant from the National Lottery. This allowed it to move to the Sleaford Playhouse.

Spokeswoman Asha Kaur said: “SCC was a concept that originated from our chairman Paul Shaw. As a Lincoln University Media Studies graduate, his idea for a community-owned cinema gave Sleaford the opportunity to, once again, watch new and classic films on the big screen.

“The Cinema is run by a group of volunteers who believe that Sleaford has a right to a cinema, without needing to travel over seventeen miles. Our volunteers are dedicated to providing the area with at least one film a month, which can be seen at The Hub, Navigation Wharf or The Playhouse Theatre.”

Films include screenings to suit all tastes and all ages, from children’s favourites, to fantasies, musical, romantic and detective titles.

“We gave out a questionnaire at the very beginning to guage the number of residents who would attend screenings. The response was very positive and encouraging and gave us sufficient support to gain a generation donation from North Kesteven District Council.

“From there, we have been really lucky in receiving funding from Awards for All, the county council and the Lincolnshire Community Foundation, Grassroots, which has given us the chance to fund a twelve-month programme, which will run until August 2011,” said the spokeswoman.

SCC is always looking for volunteers. Anyone keen to know more can email Asha Kaur at:

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