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Spalding has long been famous as the centre of the UK’s bulb and flower industry. Melanie Burton discovers a town that continues to grow in confidence.

Words: Melanie Burton
Photography: Mick Fox
Featured in the September 2018 issue

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Spalding has long been famous as the centre of the UK’s bulb and flower industry. Melanie Burton discovers a town that continues to grow in confidence.

Its annual tulip parade, which took place every May from 1959, was a major tourist attraction bringing in more than 100,000 visitors at its peak. But by 2012 fewer than 40,000 people were attending the event so the decision was taken to make the 54th flower parade the last.

That is not to say that the floral importance of the town was forgotten. Far from it – its legacy lives on in the renowned Springfields gardens, consisting of around twenty-five acres of beautifully landscaped lawns and exciting sculptures, dazzling water features and of course tulips! They offer the perfect spot to sit and watch the world go by.

As a winner of the Rolls Royce International Property Awards, the gardens introduce members of the public, amateur gardeners and enthusiasts to a wide range of horticultural experiences. These include celebrity designed gardens: A Lifetime Ahead by Kim Wilde, Jungle Island by Charlie Dimmock, as well as formal gardens, woodland areas, wetlands, the Senses Garden and the Memorial, Sun Dial and Founders Gardens. There are also Display Fountains combining music and water in spectacular shows.

These gardens also provide the perfect location for a number of events throughout the year. With a summer full of entertainment, a celebrity Christmas lights switch-on and its popular firework display, Springfields attracts thousands of visitors to the area on a regular basis.

The Springfields site is ideally situated on the A16 on the outskirts of Spalding and consists of the Events & Conference Centre, the Springfields Outlet Shopping Centre and the Festival Gardens.

Springfield Events & Conference Centre is owned by the charity, Springfields Horticultural Society. The Society directs all its funds towards the maintenance of the fifteen-acre Festival Gardens, and all profits from the Events Centre are gift-aided back to the society to assist with the costs of maintaining the gardens as an all year round, free to enter, green space for the use of the local community and visitors to the area.

The Events Centre is an adaptable and multi-functional facility consisting of two exhibition halls, a seminar room and five-acre outside arena area. It includes a 1,000 sqm main Exhibition Hall, one of the largest in the county, which can be used to host a wide range of events.

The centre also includes the Marquee Suite, an indoor, cream coloured marquee suitable for weddings, parties and private luncheons.

Susan Norton, Events & Conference Centre Manager said: “Springfields Events & Conference Centre has become an increasingly popular venue of choice for both traditional English ceremonies and weddings as well as Asian family weddings, which sometimes have up to 700 guests attending.

“We remain the only local facility for major charity fundraising balls, hosting as we can around 500 guests for a formal dinner, and we still have a great mix of community events, trade shows and business meetings to help keep us busy.

“Improvements to our Marquee Suite and toilets in recent years reflect the confidence of the Society’s Trustees in the Events Centre business being able to gift-aid funds to help with keeping the Festival Gardens as a free-to-enter attraction promoting the bulb industry as well as the benefits of gardening as a healthy lifestyle choice and leisure pursuit.”

The outlet shopping centre has come a long way over the past twelve years and is arguably the East of England’s premier retail and leisure destination.

There are more than fifty big name outlet stores to browse including Fat Face, Next, M&S, Skechers, Ernest Jones Outlet Collection, Gap, Radley, Bench and Clarks. Springfields is constantly evolving, with more big names expected.

The latest edition to the centre is the high-quality Cosmetics Company Store which opened its doors just last month.

Part of the Estee Lauder Companies, the Cosmetics Company Store offers award-winning premium skincare, make-up and fragrance products.

The store at Springfields is The Cosmetics Company Store’s first store in Lincolnshire.

Launched in 1994, the company has more than 150 outlet stores across the world and it is a big hit with shoppers.

Simon Stone, retail director of Springfields Outlet, said: “The Cosmetics Company Store is a wonderful addition to our beauty and cosmetics offer here at Springfields.

“It brings great brands and with major savings on recommended retail prices, we are sure this will be very popular with our shoppers.”

As well as welcoming new retail brands to the East of England’s premier shopping and leisure destination, following recent major investment and expansion, the new Springfield’s Adventure Land has welcomed thousands of people since it opened at the end of June.

A key contributor to the local economy, Springfields supports more than 500 jobs and has an annual footfall of over 2.3 million achieving thirteen years of consecutive turnover growth since opening. Around 90% of employees live within fifteen miles and 60% within five miles of the site.

Springfields is owned by UBS Asset Management’s Triton Property Fund LP and managed by Sanderson Leisure and Retail (SLR) Outlets. Formed in 2016, it now manages or advises on over 800,000 sq ft of UK retail and development space across 130 acres.

With the launch of its new Adventure Land family play area, it has recruited local people to fill new positions. A final total of 65 team members were introduced, including three new managers, six party hosts, for the three new Party Rooms available for hire on the first floor of Springy’s Diner; 31 staff to run the outdoor activity attractions and 25 to run the new Springy’s Diner.

Annie Horne, managing director of Planning Solutions Ltd who will manage Adventure Land and Springy’s Diner and led the recruitment, said: “Planning Solutions worked with the Springfields Outlet team for some time for the launch of Adventure Land and Springy’s Diner.

“As a team we were keen to ensure that as many local people as possible benefited from the new opportunities that were created.”

Ian Sanderson, of SLR Outlets, which operates Springfields said: “Adventure Land will deliver an even better shopping and leisure experience for families visiting Springfields Outlet.

“It also presents new employment and training opportunities for a variety of local people. We have an excellent track record of local recruitment and it is good to see that continuing with our latest team members.’’

Much work is being done in Spalding to encourage new businesses to the town and help existing ones grow.

South Holland District Council (SHDC) has appointed economic development experts Opportunity Peterborough to support the local authority in the delivery of its plans to grow the local economy. The new partnership, which commenced at the beginning of June, sets out to boost inward investment to the district, improve business engagement, formulate new strategy and policy and assist with accessing more funding to support projects across South Holland.

Opportunity Peterborough is an economic development company which operates between the public and private sectors. By occupying this unique position it is able to add value to all stakeholders; supporting businesses and local authorities to achieve their growth aspirations.

As well as leading Peterborough’s economic growth for the past eight years, the company has also delivered economic development consultancy and support for both Fenland and South Kesteven District Councils.

SHDC Deputy Leader, Councillor Nick Worth, portfolio holder for growth and commercialisation said: “South Holland District Council looks forward to working collaboratively with Opportunity Peterborough to drive new economic development and inward investment to the district.

“This is a really positive statement for the people and businesses of South Holland, which further strengthens our already excellent economic development service.

“Amongst other things, with the help of Opportunity Peterborough we’ll be promoting South Holland more widely to attract and land new inward investment enquiries, with a particular focus on creating higher value jobs.”

Chief executive of Opportunity Peterborough, Steve Bowyer, said: “The area has a range of fantastic businesses, excellent connectivity and great potential for economic growth and we’re looking forward to helping the district realise its ambitions.”

Businesses in the area are now being asked for their views on how best to boost the local economy.

“One of our first priorities is to build a better understanding of the South Holland economy and find out how local businesses are performing and, perhaps more importantly, what barriers might be holding back their future growth,” said Steve.

“That’s why we’ve launched a district-wide survey and are asking all local businesses to contribute their views. It really does only take a few minutes to complete and the results will help us to measure business confidence and tailor our approach to support companies in the area.”

The South Holland Business Survey runs until 7th September.

Local small to medium enterprises (SMEs) in the district can also tap into £1.3 million in European Regional Development Funds to help them expand their business. South Holland District Council is administering the fund under its Grants4Growth scheme. It has so far made 95 awards worth over £747,000 to help Lincolnshire businesses expand.

These grants have resulted in the creation of 41 jobs, and together with £2.6 million in match funding from the businesses themselves, represents £3.4 million in investment in the area.

One Spalding area company which has benefited from the scheme is Welland Power – a manufacturer and distributor of diesel generators. Welland Power has been quoted on the FT 1000 list of companies and has recently been given a Queen’s Award for Enterprise.

When it was considering investing £70,000 in new plant for cutting, printing and stripping wires and cables, a £14,000 Grants4Growth award helped them choose the right equipment.

“We needed the equipment to make us more efficient and change the way we work so that we could make more components on site and not buy in so much,” said CEO Charlie Farrow.

“The money we received from Grants4Growth allowed us to buy a higher specification of machine than we might have otherwise considered.”

Councillor Worth said: “This really is a great opportunity. We would urge SMEs in the district to consider making an application.

“So far we have funded a wide range of different kinds of businesses, from a disability aid manufacturer to a games producer, a vehicle bodywork specialist and a number of engineering companies.” 

ASHWOOD HOMES
Ashwood Homes has been in the residential property market for over 25 years, building up an enviable reputation, and offers a range of properties from two bed homes right through to five bed executive properties, with options to suit every pocket. They currently have five sites underway: Elm Lane, which is located in the town of Holbeach; Kingfisher Gardens, situated in the popular village of Moulton; Mill View in Cowbit which is situated on the outskirts of Spalding; Abbey Walk, located in Swineshead – this village has many amenities and has great transport links on the A17. And Cowley Park, located in Donington, which is the latest site to be launched. Each development is carefully designed to provide a sense of space to suit family, retired and singleton alike.

To find out more about our developments please visit the website www.ashwoodhomes.co

SPALDING BUSINESS CLUB
Spalding boasts its very own business club, which has been supporting local companies for 14 years.

The Spalding Business Club meets on the first Thursday of every month and its principle is to give business people the chance to get to know fellow entrepreneurs.

“We keep it informal but encourage all to introduce themselves and their business,” explained chairman Kenneth Maggs, who is a partner in the chartered accountants firm Moore Thompson and has been at the helm for six years.

“It works on the basis that people refer people more than they do businesses. We currently pay £8 each month to cover the price of breakfast and the breakfast of the speaker (their fee).

“We have no penalties for people who do not attend or do not refer work, it is about getting to know and trust people. As such there are no obligations to bring guests or referrals.”

The club has between 15 and 20 attendees.

“We are the only business group that has lasted the time. We were started in August 2006 by Mark Ulyett of Lloyds Bank and Paul Brill of Chattertons,” said Ken.

“I, and my firm, are the only ones who have been attending the whole time and I have made many contacts over those years which I still use today.

“As chairman I organise a cooked breakfast for all attendees and a speaker of either local or business interest.

“The club meets at 7am for breakfast to prevent the meeting impacting on the working day and although it is an early start it is appreciated and the meeting finishes around 8.30am.”

ADVENTURE LAND OPENS
Springfields Outlet, the leading shopping and leisure destination in the East of England, opened its highly anticipated new leisure destination, Adventure Land just three months ago and it has already welcomed thousands of visitors to the site.

Adventure Land boasts the UK’s largest JCB Young Drivers’ Zone, giving children an exciting opportunity to drive around in bright yellow pedal diggers. They can also enjoy the huge JCB slide, and scaffold-themed climbing frame, and let their imaginations take over on a range of unique interactive play attractions.

Families can walk through the trees in the new Tree Top Village that has eight wooden towers and a massive 12 sqm suspended net.

Also, Springy’s Beach, offering a sand play area and rockpool water stream all covered by a huge canopy, will delight children who will be able to have fun whatever the weather. And families can try their luck at Dino Golf, with dinosaurs peering around every corner, then pan for gold at Goldie’s Gold Mine.

There is a miniature railway, aptly named Springy’s Railroad, through the woodland and the overground Adventure Land Express train which goes through the scenic, award-winning Festival Gardens. Visitors can also sample a taste of America at the new Springy’s American Diner.

Coronation Street actress Samia Ghadie officially opened the attraction to kickstart an opening weekend which included a whole host of entertainment, with Samba dancers, a steel drumming band, jugglers, stilt walkers, face painting and glitter art.

Adventure Land is a new leisure destination designed to attract greater numbers of visitors from further afield, looking for an enjoyable and memorable day out.

It has also created 65 new jobs and locals have been recruited to fill the new roles.

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