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Words: Melanie Burton
Photography: Mick Fox
Featured in the December 2014 issue

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The busy, but small, market town has an ancient history with a number of notable historic buildings still standing, but its focus is very much on its future prosperity.

Historically the town’s economy was based upon agriculture and today that remains an important employer. However, Sleaford also possesses a diverse range of manufacturing companies, producing items from agricultural machinery to plastics, electronic equipment and container products. The tourism, retail and service sectors are also being increasingly developed.

Much is going on behind the scenes to encourage more businesses to invest in the town, increase footfall to help boost the economy and improve the town’s infrastructure.

A festival celebrating the skills, creativity and craft of local businesses will be coming to the town next autumn. The week-long Made in Sleaford event will showcase business excellence and products ranging from farm machinery, film and furniture through composites, crafts and ceramics to pianos, ploughs and printing.

It will also be an ideal opportunity for innovators, inventors and designers to showcase their ideas, prototypes and products to potential investors and manufacturers.

North Kesteven District Council leader, Councillor Marion Brighton said: “As a celebration of the varied and vibrant businesses adding to local economic vitality, Made in Sleaford will be a fantastic opportunity to raise your business profile, promote your business to potential customers and suppliers and recruit staff.”

It will be open to any business that makes and sells products in and around Sleaford.

There is also a strategy in the pipeline to improve traffic flow and accessibility within Sleaford and encourage more walking, cycling and public transport use.

Having commissioned a Transport Strategy for Sleaford to address a range of current transport issues, both Lincolnshire County Council and North Kesteven District Council have endorsed a series of measures, schemes and initiatives up to 2030, in support of the emerging proposals for significant growth in the town.

In order to address Sleaford’s transport issues, suggested interventions cover public transport, active travel, smarter travel and highways, ranging from quick delivery in the first two years through to a longer ten-year-plus delivery.

The measures include expanding bus and rail services and infrastructure to make them easier and more attractive to use, as well as a network of direct walking and cycling routes, including junction priority and traffic calming on minor roads.

There are also plans for a town centre 20mph zone; more secure cycle storage and potentially hire bike provision; and a bus link between Holdingham and Sleaford’s East Road.

North Kesteven District Council is also progressing with its Compulsory Purchase powers for securing delivery of a road essential to realising the town’s regeneration.

It insists that without the road the approved restoration of the endangered, crumbling historic Maltings cannot be realised or the full potential of a £100m package of inward investment, bringing at least 1,000 jobs and many new retail, leisure and business opportunities, fulfilled.

The Compulsory Purchase Order needs to be confirmed by a Government minister before it can take effect and it is likely that a public inquiry will have to be held next spring, as part of the process to resolve a dispute over land acquisition.

One of Sleaford’s many regeneration projects currently underway has found a solution to the long-held aspiration to return a cinema to the town. As part of the new Heart of Sleaford scheme focused on regenerating the historic Corn Exchange and Bristol Arcade, and improving links between the Market Place and the rest of the town centre, there is scope for a screen to be installed within a multi-use community building at the core.

Future plans include the restoration of the ancient Buttermarket, for use by new businesses setting up and wanting to test the market; better trading conditions in Bristol Arcade for established retailers and new shops and places to meet and eat, including a new cafe, restaurant and public spaces.

The ultimate aim is to re-map and open up the north of Sleaford town centre, rediscovering and rejuvenating some of the town’s hidden gems and creating a new, vibrant destination for visitors and local people.

There is also a new footbridge under consideration, for crossing the railway line, and a range of support measures in place to boost the fortunes of established retailers town-wide.

Heart of Sleaford is being pioneered by a partnership of North Kesteven District Council, Bristol Arcades Ltd, Hodgson Brothers LLP, The Lincolnshire Community Foundation and KSA Architects – all focused on promoting Sleaford, attracting inward investment and securing an exciting, sustainable legacy for the town.

It will harness community, commerce and conservation interests, to have a positive impact on the success of Sleaford Town Centre and dovetail with the many other regeneration initiatives currently underway.

Councillor Marion Brighton believes that the Heart of Sleaford initiative “marks a very exciting statement of intent for regeneration”.

“This represents a very definite, concrete start to realising the vision set out in the Sleaford Masterplan, with the support of committed business people who are well-known in the community and want to work with us in realising the town’s potential,” she said.

The historic Corn Exchange and Buttermarket have been derelict and neglected for over a decade. There are already planning permissions in place for the restoration of the listed Corn Exchange and its adaptation for retail, office and leisure use, with other aspects of the plan in need of development and formalisation.

Work has also been underway this year to evaluate what residents, traders, visitors and shoppers like or dislike about the town.

Throughout the summer and autumn, surveys gave people a key opportunity to help shape and redefine the way the town centre operates in the future.

The feedback is now being assessed and the findings will help establish local preferences and priorities, help the Council to support existing retailers and entice new ones and also help identify whether people support pedestrianisation, better located car parks, more restaurants and leisure activities.

Sleaford is also home to a number of independent specialist firms, which all help to put the town on the map.

Ray Butler Ltd is one of Lincolnshire’s oldest electrical contracting companies, having been established in Sleaford in 1959. As well as a dedicated team of fully qualified and highly experienced electricians, it also has a Dr Who Tardis, a Dalek and a red phonebox in its car park.

From its offices and stores in the heart of Sleaford, a fleet of ten company owned vans and qualified operatives serve Sleaford, Lincolnshire and beyond. The vehicles are equipped with sophisticated tracking systems to direct the closest engineer to breakdowns.

The company is also a strong supporter of local events, such as the Sleaford Carnival and the Sleaford Rotary Swimarathon, as well as charities such as the New Life Centre and clubs such as Sleaford Wheelers and the local netball teams.

Another renowned family firm is White & Sentance Piano Specialists in The Temple, Eastgate, which is one of the few remaining traditional piano shops in the East Midlands, having been trading for more than 140 years.

Sleaford is also home to the National Centre for Craft & Design, which is based in the riverside setting of Navigation Wharf. It is a unique and ambitious gallery that exhibits innovative, challenging and accomplished craft and design artists.

The centre has three exhibition spaces including the largest main gallery space in England, a rooftop gallery and a vibrant window space.

MOORE AND SCRUPPS JEWELLERS
With Christmas fast approaching, town traders are all set for the busiest time of the year and one Sleaford town jeweller’s shop is more ready than most.

Moore & Scrupps in Southgate has been trading in the town since the 1700s and has just undergone its first refit since the 1970s.

Partner John Moore said the aim is to be more contemporary without the business losing its traditional values.

“It has been a jeweller’s shop since the 1700s and the refit is only the second it has undergone since then. The last time it was done was forty years ago in the 1970s,” said John. “But we wanted to add more brands and move into the twenty-first century with more modern, contemporary displays.”

Brands stocked include Links of London, Clogau jewellery, Emozioni, Ti Sento, Hot Diamonds and Pandora, which remains the shop’s leading brand. But stocking these brands means they have to use specialist display cabinets supplied by the companies.

“We have altered the shop to accommodate these brands, without losing the traditional silver, gold and diamond jewellery, antique and secondhand pieces,” said John. “It is a very different shop, but we have created a section at the back of the shop which still has the traditional look with carpets, chairs and a table. We are not changing much from our original philosophy, but we are combining the old with the new. We have a much more modern look with the same traditional values.”

Moore & Scrupps has had its Christmas stock ready to go since it reopened after its refurbishment in October. It includes new ranges of diamonds, gold jewellery and watches, together with the extensive collection of Pandora jewellery and the new brands.

“There is an exciting time around the corner for us,” said John.

BRIGHT SPARKS
Established in April 1959, Ray Butler Ltd is a family-owned company and one of Lincolnshire’s oldest electrical contracting businesses with an enviable reputation.

It has been NICEIC registered for more than forty years, is an active member of the Electrical Contractors Association and is JIB registered.

It has achieved Constructionline registration, CHAS accreditation, Trustmark approval, Renewable Energy Consumer Code membership and Microgeneration Certification Scheme accreditation, for carrying out Solar PV installations. Renewable energy is one area that Ray Butler Ltd moved into in recent years, completing its first Solar PV installation in 2011.

Ray Butler Ltd is also a member of the NICEIC Domestic Installer Scheme for compliance with Part P of the Building Regulations, which came into force in 2005.

From its offices and stores located in West Banks, Sleaford, the fleet of ten company owned vans with tracking devices and ten qualified operatives, including three apprentices, provide an excellent service to clients from the domestic, industrial, agricultural, commercial, diocesan and local authority sectors in Lincolnshire and other counties.

KEY TO SUCCESS
One of the last remaining traditional piano shops in the East Midlands is based in Sleaford and has been for more than 140 years. White & Sentance in Eastgate is also one of the town’s oldest businesses.

Although it was founded in 1867 in Grantham by William White, as a ‘pianoforte and harmonium warehouse’, the branch in Sleaford opened in the 1890s.

Owner, Chris Winter said: “We do anything to do with acoustic pianos and we have a showroom stocking new and restored pianos. I go round most of Lincolnshire and the surrounding areas, such as Rutland and Peterborough, tuning and carrying out maintenance work. We also have a workshop where we can do repairs and restoration work as well.”

White & Sentance specialises in the sale, restoration and tuning of all types of grand and upright pianos and stocks carefully selected traditional acoustic grand and upright pianos.

The Sleaford branch was set up when George Sentance joined as a partner in the 1890s and the business expanded steadily. Two music shops and a pipe organ factory were also opened in Grantham, and branches set up in Melton Mowbray and Peterborough.

By the 1920s, with the second generation of the Sentance family now running the firm, White & Sentance was serving musicians throughout a large part of the East Midlands, covering Lincolnshire, Rutland, and parts of Cambridgeshire and Leicestershire.

This situation continued until the 1960s but then, as family members retired – and with no heirs to pass two of the shops on to – the Peterborough and Melton branches closed.

The second of the two Grantham shops followed in the early 1980s, leaving George Sentance’s youngest great nephew, Geoffrey, running the remaining business in Sleaford, latterly specialising entirely in piano sales and tuning. In 1987, 120 years after the firm was founded, Chris Winter became a partner, having trained for many years under Geoffrey Sentance. He took sole charge in 1996, when a move to larger premises in a converted Victorian Baptist Chapel followed, from where the firm now offers one of the largest and most comprehensive selections of new and restored pianos for many miles.

Chris said: “There has only ever been one White in the business, since it was founded in 1867. It was run by the Sentance family from when George joined until I came along. I was an apprentice to the third generation of Sentances and started working there when I was still at school. It was a Saturday job.”

Now history has come full circle and Chris’s son Luke is an apprentice and it has once again become a family-run business.

“We are proud to be one of the few remaining traditional piano shops in the East Midlands and I am pleased to say we are very busy. I think it is because I specialise in a niche market. There are a number of other tuners around the county but not many have a workshop facility or a shop.”

HOT TV STAR
The owner of a newly opened restaurant in Sleaford is already helping put the town on the global map, through a series of television and film appearances all over the world.

Muhammed Karim, who launched his Bindi restaurant inside the town’s former cinema building in July, appeared on the Discovery Channel in October in a new show presented by comedian Omid Djalili called Hot and Dangerous.

The two-part series has seen the team travel around the UK in search of the hottest food. Part one focused on Indian food and in particular Mr Karim’s Widower Curry which he says is the hottest curry in the world.

The curry, which has been sent to the Universities of Oxford and Warwick for testing, is the subject of an eating challenge which has attracted national media interest.

On the Discovery Channel programme, Omid and Darth Naga, a chilli reviewer, took part in the event, called the Widower Curry Challenge.

The curry contains two of the spiciest chillies in the world. But Mr Karim says people underestimate the health values that chillies have.

“The ones we use in the curry can help prolong the chance of not getting cancer. They are hot but there are benefits there, if used on a regular basis. We have to educate people on how they are cooked, what the benefits are and the health options.”

The Discovery Channel television appearance isn’t the only one Mr Karim has done.

“We have done TV shows all over the world. There are a couple more shows on the way including one with Gino D’Acampo and we are also doing a charity event for Grimsby Children’s Hospice with X-Factor star Ella Henderson and some of the Grimsby football team.

“I have just been filming for a Swedish TV show being broadcast in May 2015 and a programme for Global TV in Brazil that is just going out.”

Mr Karim has also cooked for a number of celebrities entertaining friends at home.

“We are trying to build up our reputation with the locals and with these shows it is pushing the town’s profile. We have been featured in the national press recently for our Widower Curry, so there has been lots of publicity.”

CARRE ARMS - FAMILY HOSPITALITY FOR THE FESTIVE SEASON
Sleaford hoteliers and restaurateurs the Cunago family have built an excellent reputation over the past twenty-five years for delivering the best in good food and hospitality at The Carre Arms Hotel, conveniently located close to the market town’s centre.

Lisa Cunago, daughter of the original founders explained: “Christmas is one of our busiest and most enjoyable seasons at the hotel. We, as usual, insist on delivering fresh food, cooked to order and our guests thoroughly enjoy our eclectic mix of modern English and Mediterranean cuisine.”

You can enjoy the Lunchtime Christmas Fayre Menu every day from the beginning of December (excluding Sundays) which is excellent value at £13.50 for two courses or £16.50 for three.

Why not bring your party to a party on The Party Night on 11th December? A great way to celebrate the season with friends or colleagues. You can see in the New Year at the Carre Arms New Year’s Eve Dinner and Dance, a truly special night at £45 per head.

The hotel has recently received a CAMRA award in recognition of its fine beers and a newly installed log burning stove in the bar to the rear of the hotel is making a snug and cosy retreat from the winter chills.

You can find out more at: www.carrearmshotel.co.uk

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