Tuesday 28th January 2020
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Words: Melanie Burton
Photography: Mick Fox
Featured in the September 2019 issue

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Improvement and investment has been ongoing in the Lincolnshire market town for a number of years and, as Melanie Burton finds, all the hard work and plans seem to be coming together now.

The appearance of the town is changing, the visitor experience is being enhanced and multi-million pound schemes are on the cards which will secure jobs, help increase footfall to the centre and boost the local economy.

Under a Partnership Scheme in Conservation Areas, jointly funded by North Kesteven District Council, Historic England and Sleaford Town Council, the appearance of Sleaford’s street scene is being enriched through the funding of repairs and the reinstatement of historic shopfronts and other traditional architectural details.

The latest to benefit from the scheme is the building at 17 Market Place, which has been empty for more than a decade and had become an eyesore in a prominent location.

The original shopfront and carriage arch had been hacked away in the 1960s to make way for a plain new front. But now the stone archway and timber shopfront have both been carefully reinstated using historic photographs from the late 1800s.

Work is still continuing on the interior of the building, but the changes to the façade have helped improve the look of the picturesque Market Place.

A further half a dozen sites in Southgate and Northgate will be seeing similar improvements over the next few months.

In total, 16 different addresses will have benefited from some £300,000 of grant aid when complete. Half of these are listed buildings and the others are important to the character of the town centre and the Sleaford conservation area.

As well as trying to improve the look of the town centre, there are also plans to put the heart back into Sleaford.

A £4 million three-screen cinema with a restaurant and food court is being proposed for the town to try and increase footfall in the evenings.

North Kesteven District Council has already committed £1.5 million to a cinema project and it has now also agreed to allocate an additional £2.5 million to the Heart of Sleaford regeneration scheme.

This will bring forward a long-held aspiration for a cinema and also deliver a food court, public open space and a footbridge over the River Slea connecting Money’s Yard to the Market Place.

Work will proceed on the design concepts and in processing a planning application for submission as soon as possible. Ultimately the build contract will be managed by the landowner.

A selection process will take place to find a cinema operator. No opening date has yet been scheduled.

Leader of the Council, Councillor Richard Wright, said the new building would be sited on unoccupied land, behind shops on Bristol Arcade and the complex of buildings alongside the Library, where recent work to enhance the historic frontages has just been completed.

“Local people continue to tell us that they want a modern multi-screen cinema and this proposal will deliver that as a central part of a major economic boost to Sleaford town centre,” he said.

“Providing a cinema is a bold expression by the district council in support of a modern, multi-use town which meets the needs of a growing and changing town.”

Across three screens, the new cinema will have a seating capacity of 300 which means it will be commercially viable and capable of hosting the latest cinema releases.

As part of the design concept, the cinema construction will incorporate and regenerate the currently vacant and derelict historic vaulted Buttermarket to become a landmark building and contribute towards a visual focal point for central Sleaford.

“Another great plus for this scheme is that the new pedestrian bridge over the River Slea will help to regenerate this hidden part of historic Sleaford,” Mr Wright said.

“We are also planning to invest in quality hard and soft landscaping to complement the setting of the new cinema and food court.

“There will also be a public art feature to give a focal point and draw the eye of visitors from Market Place and Money’s Yard.”

Funding towards an earlier scheme for a two-screen cinema was approved in April 2018, but it has now become clear that three screens are needed for the project to be economically viable.

Cllr Wright continued: “With the imminent opening of a five-screen cinema in Grantham and plans to increase the Kinema in the Woods at Woodhall Spa to three screens, this underlines the need for three screens in Sleaford to enhance the town’s vibrancy and appeal. This development will be great for the evening and night time economy as it will draw lots of people into the town.”

It is estimated that the local spend on cinema tickets could be £750,000 a year which would generate an extra £1.5 million in spending on other goods and services in Sleaford without including food and drink.

Robert Hodgson, a director of the landowning company, said: “North Kesteven District Council has been incredibly proactive and positive in its vison to bring this scheme forward in order to meet a long-held aspiration of the town and restore some of the town’s historical legacy whilst opening it up for a new generation to enjoy and benefit from. It’s a very exciting proposal.”

Another project which will help attract more visitors to the area is the £1.2 million refurbishment plan for the National Centre for Craft and Design which already brings in people from far and wide.

Plans have been drawn up which will create an enhanced modernised space for artists and also secure the commitment to the town from major employer, MRI Software.

Under the scheme, the top two floors of the building will be occupied by MRI which will move from its existing premises in Westgate.

The centre is the largest venue in England entirely dedicated to the exhibition, celebration and promotion of international national and local craft and design.

It became the national centre just a few years ago back in 2011, but its history goes back a lot further having originated as a heritage, craft and tourism centre in The Pearooms in the village of Heckington in the 1970s.

Another global company that has shown its commitment to the town is the world’s largest floral services provider Teleflora.

It has just acquired the Sleaford based Interflora UK flower delivery network firm in a $59.5 million dollar.

Teleflora currently has nearly 10,000 partner florists in North America alone.

As well as being the largest flower delivery network in the world, Interflora is also the longest serving with a history stretching back to 1923.

It now delivers to 137 countries across the globe.

Eye sight care for every generation
Based in the heart of Sleaford and with plenty of accessible parking close by, Dixons Opticians offer a personal and friendly service for every member of the family. Their long serving and loyal employees are a testament to their company values and consistent level of service they offer their customers.

Dixons is an independent business that has been established for more than one hundred years in Lincoln and over three decades in Sleaford and their fully qualified dispensing team work with the latest diagnostic equipment to tailor the best advice and lens prescriptions for each client.

Specialist services include dry eye assessments and retinal imaging on a 3D OCT scanner. Dixons Opticians are also a 5 star Varilux lens specialist store and are experts in sports eyewear.

They offer the choice of private, NHS and free children’s eye tests and they have ranges of frames, lenses and contact lenses from budget to designer. Leading frame brands include Tom Ford, Ray-Ban, Oakley and Tiffany.

Dixons Opticians are based in the Riverside Shopping Centre, Sleaford. They also have a branch on the High Street in Lincoln.

Water fountain
The Sleaford and District Civic Trust is a group dedicated to preserving a good quality of life and environment in the town of Sleaford and is involved in several projects to improve and promote the town’s heritage assets.

Now it is playing its part in helping to reduce the amount of plastic in the town.

After being awarded a major grant of £34,000 towards the Sleaford Bristol Water Project, which aimed to restore the historic Bristol water fountain in Sleaford Market Place, it is now looking forward to seeing it completed and opened over the next few weeks.

The Water Fountain was built in 1874 to celebrate the Sixth Earl and Second Marquess of Bristol by his local tenants and is a reminder of the significant influence the Bristol family had in Sleaford.

The initial water supply came from a spring in the courtyard of what is now Lloyds bank. However the water supply always had problems with contamination and in 1875 vandalism when someone blocked the pipe with a pebble.

The fountain was finally closed in 1905. But now thanks to Sleaford Civic Trust, Sleaford Town Council, North Kesteven District Council and Sleaford Museum, the fountain has been restored to working order and will once again supply fresh drinking water for the public and help reduce the amount of plastic bottle waste.

Arts Centre Refurbishment
The National Centre for Craft and Design in Sleaford is the country’s largest venue entirely dedicated to the exhibition, celebration and promotion of international, national and local craft and design.

A planned £1.2 million refurbishment aims to attract even more artists, entertainers and visitors to the town.

All the existing features of the NCCD will be retained by the addition of a 200 square metre ground floor extension.

Subject to planning permission being granted, work is expected to begin early next year.

North Kesteven District Council leader Cllr Richard Wright is excited by the plan and what the centre refurbishment means for the town.

He said: “The work will help us to attract even more visitors to Sleaford by broadening the variety of arts and entertainment on offer and we will also create a local hub whilst still maintaining and developing the centre’s national significance. There will also be much needed conferencing facilities.

“As a council we are committed to championing the arts, something we have done for more than a quarter of a century.

“I am also pleased that the work will provide a new home for MRI Software which currently employs more than 60 people in the town.”

The plans for the scheme were drawn up after a month long public consultation designed to find out what residents and visitors wanted from the NCCD.

Regional MRI Software marketing director James Lavery, who manages a team based out of the Sleaford office, said: “Our move to this new facility demonstrates our commitment to the town. We’re proud of our company’s roots in Sleaford and are looking forward to being part of an important creative hub for the area.”

Are you feeling ‘well’?
Most us don’t even think about our health. If it doesn’t require immediate attention and we can function, we consider ourselves ‘healthy’ (to a greater or lesser degree). 

The pressures of modern day living can leave us stressed, anxious, prone to colds and bugs, low energy, insomnia and depression to name just a few. Fortunately, for most of us, help is at hand coupled with some lifestyle changes, but where to start?

This is where the power of the plant can help! Herbal medicine has been around for thousands of years and is still used by over 75% of the world’s population. Using the active ingredients within the plant to help support and balance the normal healthy functioning of our bodily systems, herbal medicine helps to promote health and healing, restoring vitality and wellbeing.

Whether you want a health check, a first aid remedy or help with a chronic or acute condition, why not contact your local medical herbalist and feel the power of the plant for yourself.

Independent Traders’ Association
Small independent businesses have been the backbone of traditional market towns up and down the country during the recent recessions and difficult trading times.

Sleaford has many niche businesses that attract clients from far and wide and now they have banded together and set up their own support network to help them flourish even more and in turn keep the ‘high street’ alive.

The Sleaford Independent Traders’ Association (SITA) only formed a couple of months ago but within six weeks had 30 members signed up.

“There was a spate of criminal damage to small businesses in Sleaford a couple of months ago and the idea for the Association stemmed from that,” explained SITA co-ordinator Ken Hanslip.

“Small shops matter to a town but recently we received a letter from Lincs Police saying that if shopkeepers in Sleaford have a crime incident they would have to report it, supply copies of the CCTV and evidential statements within 14 days or they will close the case down.

“The businesses themselves would find that difficult to do when they are trying to run a business or a shop.”

Ken, whose wife Wendy runs the Belissimo Boutique in the town, suggested having a group to support the small retails and traders.

“SITA was formed so we could support each other, help each other in crime prevention and also be a voice for the small shopkeepers in the town to express their views on local issues,” Ken said.

SITA has its own free shop alert system to help protect each other from crime and it also expresses its views on any issues it feels could impact on the town and the business and retail sector.

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