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Words: Glynis Fox
Photography: Mick Fox
Featured in the September 2013 issue

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Lincoln has been basking in the spotlight this summer, having impressed managers from across the UK, dazzled the crowds with its amazing festivals and raised the city’s profile in creative new ways.

Delegates who attended the Association of Town Centre Management conference in the city praised Lincoln’s achievements and said it has “got things right.”

Families revelled in our lively Independence Day and Lincoln Festival celebrations, which were centred on the Brayford Waterfront, and Lincoln Cathedral made headlines when it hosted the European Stone Festival, attracting stonemasons from around the world, who used their talents to raise a cool £50,000 for the jewel in Lincoln’s crown.

Now a unique film, Lip Dub Lincoln – produced by BBC Radio Lincolnshire and the first of its kind in the UK – has given a worldwide YouTube audience an insight into Lincoln’s fascinating DNA. See the video at http://youtu.be/N7arQ51altw

Yet more exciting events are on the cards as Lincoln BIG and its partner organisations keep up the momentum as summer rolls into autumn, to be swiftly followed by the all-important festive season.

Events, promotions and initiatives play a powerful role in helping to encourage local shoppers to spend longer exploring their home city and, along with tourists and conference visitors, discover Lincoln’s great blend of national, niche and family businesses.

There is a distinct feeling that, whatever the state of the economy, Lincoln is doing as well as, if not outperforming, other destinations.

Certainly, a recent visit to a major Midlands tourist destination and a spa town north of London left me with the impression that Lincoln still has plenty to shout about.

Lincolnshire Chamber said national Chamber figures – including data collected from Lincolnshire Chamber’s quarterly findings – reveal that the trading environment is still fragile.

Second quarter findings show encouraging sales and order figures at home and abroad, but figures are still below pre-recession levels revealing that recovery is happening, but there is still some way to go.

Lincoln BIG chief executive, Matt Corrigan said: “In today’s challenging times, it has been recognised that standing still is not an option for Lincoln, so it is good to be able to continue celebrating new enterprises and the expansion of long-established family firms.

“More than £9 million is being spent on upgrading the city’s Waterside Shopping Centre. Other big-name stores are based at the popular St Mark’s development and we have a wealth of independent traders in The Strait, the award-winning Steep Hill and Bailgate, bringing variety and balance in a linear city.”

Further investment is being ploughed into the ever-expanding University of Lincoln campus and there is an ongoing determination to make the multi-million pound Lindongate project a reality.

The city has also celebrated the renewal of its Purple Flag status – giving people extra confidence that they can enjoy a vibrant and safe night out, whether they want to enjoy a family meal, see a film, relax over a drink or go to a nightclub.

Planners have also given the green light to a new Brayford Wharf East railway bridge crossing and consultations are underway over a second pedestrian bridge over in the High Street.

Longer-term, Lincoln is poised to benefit from the congestion-busting East-West Link Road and the Eastern Bypass. Efforts are also being made to get more direct trains running between Lincoln and London.

Recent newcomers to Lincoln include a Costa Coffee outlet in the High Street, opposite River Island, and Churchill’s café and Henry’s Tea Room, above Ruddocks, in the section of the High Street north of the Stonebow.

Carluccio’s and Patisserie Valerie have also brought their names to Lincoln, adding extra vitality to the city centre and confirming that this is a destination with the power to attract high-flying, but choosey, national brands.

As you leave the High Street and step into The Strait, you will notice that The Cheese Society has opened a shop in a former jeweller’s outlet. This marks an expansion move by Kate O’Meara, owner of The Cheese Society.

Her new premises have provided the perfect base for her business, which sells about eighty different cheeses, and released extra space in her original St Martin’s Lane premises, where she has extended her café to cater for up to thirty-six diners at any one time (originally Kate was only able to seat twenty-two).

Kate’s new premises follow hot on the heels of another independent business’ expansion. In May, the owners of Ruby Red, mum-and-daughter duo Sue and Lucie Powis, launched RubyRedKids in the old Knight’s shoe shop, also in The Strait.

The award-winning Steep Hill leads into Castle Hill (a great place to find farmers’ markets and other events) and part of the historic area which is home to Lincoln Cathedral and Lincoln Castle – which is benefiting from massive investment. Both are absolute musts for tourists, even those with the tightest of schedules.

Bailgate Area Guild chairman, Mark Hollingworth said: “It’s a very exciting time for Lincoln, with the Castle developments and many infrastructure projects in progress, which will further enhance Lincoln as a place to visit, study and do business.

“Uphill traders are very excited about the Castle Revealed project and are gearing up for a very busy 2015, when the works are complete.”

The Bailgate area was recently granted extended free parking, to encourage more people to visit local shops and cafes.

“Not many people know about the increase of free parking from thirty minutes to one hour in the Bailgate area, so we are telling as many of our customers as possible to get the word out. This is a very positive step for the shops in the area and I am sure it will help our regular and new visitors to enjoy the area much more.”

Mr Hollingworth, who is also a director of Flowers by Suzanne, which has a Bailgate shop, has welcomed recent newcomers such as Object & Line in Castle Hill and The Little Red Gallery in Bailgate.

“The new shops in the Bailgate area are fantastic, offering bespoke art, fashion and restaurant experiences, all in the shadows of our incredible Cathedral,” said Mr Hollingworth.

“We have the highest concentration of independent shops in the East Midlands, with a huge diversity of offerings, from chocolate to Russian dolls!”

Mr Hollingworth added that Bailgate is a bustling community and has become the focus for many different markets in Castle Hill. These are providing a rich mix of offerings and attracting people worldwide to take a closer look at our wonderful city.

Lincolnshire Chamber chief executive, Simon Beardsley said: “Economic investment is key in the growth plans of any destination and across Lincolnshire plans are being developed that will see new transport links created, retail developments built and the growth of the University of Lincoln.

“Through our Visit Lincoln and Select Lincolnshire for Food project work, we understand how important it is to make Lincolnshire an attractive place to live, work, visit and invest in.”

Mr Beardsley said that, as a membership organisation, Lincolnshire Chamber is always challenging itself to come up with new ideas to help businesses of all sizes to succeed.

“Last year we launched a new event called Building a Better Business, which brought county business experts and delegates together under one roof. It proved so popular that we are doing it again in November,” he said.

“We also launched an evening event for start-up SMEs, introducing them to other businesses which can help launch their businesses. For larger organisations it’s about sharing our expertise. Lincolnshire Chamber is also doing more proactive work with Lincolnshire’s district authorities,” added Mr Beardsley.

WATERSIDE TRANSFORMATION
Work is underway on a £9 million, eighteen-month-long project, to transform Lincoln’s Waterside Shopping Centre. The move will see the centre extensively revamped, with the open areas on the ground and upper ground levels replaced by two, double height retail units which will house fashion giants H&M and Next.

In addition, New Look is also getting a makeover, as its store will benefit from an increase in size to around 14,000 sq ft and an alteration in layout. The food court is also being relocated to the ground level.

Specialist retail property company Capital & Regional, which owns the centre, received planning consent for the multi-million-pound development earlier this year, before appointing local construction firm Simons Group to oversee the reconfiguration.

Work began in earnest in July when the City of Lincoln Council’s chief executive, Andrew Taylor took the first sledgehammer to a wall in the complex.

Waterside Shopping Centre general manager, Roy Greening said: “We are delighted to have officially begun construction work on this extremely exciting redevelopment for the Waterside. Our vision is now starting to become a reality and the people of Lincoln will soon be able to enjoy a really fantastic shopping centre. We are not only bringing two massive fashion brands to the Waterside, in H&M and Next, but also improving the New Look store. The food court will relocate to the Waterside level as well.”

Andrew Taylor said: “We are proud of how Lincoln’s retail centre has visibly coped with the economy far better than many other cities. The Waterside is at the heart of Lincoln’s shopping area, and these works are a wonderful endorsement of investor and retail confidence.

“One of the council’s main priorities is to help the city’s economy grow and there is no doubt this excellent refurbishment will add even more to the attraction of Lincoln as a fantastic place to shop and no doubt stimulate even more investment by others.”

Simons Group project director, John Hallam said: “The redevelopment of the Waterside Shopping Centre is a fantastic project for the whole team and we look forward to helping deliver a fantastic new vision for Lincoln’s High Street.”

ON YOUR BIKES
People in Lincoln are being encouraged to take the two-wheeled option to travel around the city and see its sights.

Lincolnshire County Council was due to launch a new bike hire scheme as this edition of Lincolnshire Life went to press, making the bikes available in time for the Bank Holiday weekend.

In total, forty bikes will be available to hire from eight locations across Lincoln, including Lincoln and Hykeham train stations, the Brayford Waterfront and Birchwood Avenue.

Hirebike is similar to the ‘Boris Bike’ scheme in London and is the first of its kind in Lincoln, offering bike hire throughout the day. Riders get the first thirty minutes free and are then charged £1 per hour – with the whole day price capped at £4.

The Hirebike scheme is being delivered through Access LN6 – a multi-million-pound programme designed to improve sustainable transport options in the LN6 areas of Lincoln and North Hykeham.

GROWTH OF UNIVERSITY
Investment in higher education continues apace at the University of Lincoln, where a new Art and Design building will soon be welcoming its first students.

This development will mark the completion of the first major component of the University’s new ten-year Campus Masterplan.

This vision received the green light from the City of Lincoln Council in March and outlined how the main Brayford Pool Campus might be developed over the next decade.

Proposals include plans for new academic buildings, office space and student accommodation, along with extra cafés, restaurants, shops and even a hotel.

The University is also growing in a purely academic sense, with a rise of more than twenty-five per cent in the number of undergraduate applications received this year (compared with a national rise of just three per cent) and a ranking in the top quarter in the country for student satisfaction.

The new Art and Design Building, next to the existing Architecture building, is due to open for the new academic year.

A School of Pharmacy has already been officially established at the University as part of the science and innovation park being created in conjunction with Lincolnshire Co-operative.

Undergraduate courses include a BSc in Pharmaceutical Sciences, with the first students due to embark on their studies this month and a Master of Pharmacy (MPharm) starting in September 2014.

Head of the School of Pharmacy, Dr Paul Grassby said the new School is a fantastic opportunity to develop innovative and exciting courses aimed at ensuring graduates are work-ready to meet the challenges in both the development of new medicines and optimising the use of current medicines.

The multi-million-pound Science and Innovation park involves the transformation of a disused ten-acre site in the heart of Lincoln.

FESTIVAL FEVER
Lincoln’s exciting events scene is growing ever more diverse, offering locals and visitors the chance to enjoy cutting-edge attractions.

Lincoln’s Frequency Festival, which returns to the city during October Half-Term, following its premiere in 2011, highlights the power of digital media and is one not to be missed. Frequency is supported by the University of Lincoln, Lincoln BIG, Visit Lincoln and the Lincolnshire One Venue (LOV) network.

It aims to bring a new dimension to the cultural events offering in the city attracting, in particular, a number of young people – with the audience being invited and encouraged to experience, engage and interact with digital installations.

Frequency Festival of Digital Culture showcases international and local work from artists using digital tools and new media. This year’s event promises some groundbreaking work in spaces across the city.

The Festival is a platform for celebrating the pioneering spirit of digital innovation and culture through exhibition, creative collisions and debate. It integrates art into Lincoln’s landscape in the form of installations, projections, site-specific work and live performances.

Frequency Festival also promises to be a melting pot and networking opportunity for artists, academics, creatives and the general public, allowing them to engage with the debates about art and culture and the ways in which the digital evolution is shaping our lives.

Readers can find out more by visiting http://frequency.org.uk

LINDONGATE LATEST
Visitors to the city centre will have noted that there has been further action on the site of the former Grand Hotel in St Mary’s Street.

Planning permission has been obtained by Lincolnshire Co-operative for use of the site as a temporary shoppers’ car park, which will be operated by the City of Lincoln Council.

Peter Banks, of Banks Long & Co – the Society’s Agent, has revealed that, although this will be a relatively small and short-term car parking facility, both the Society and the City of Lincoln Council felt that in this important ‘Gateway’ location to the city centre, adjacent to the railway station, a good quality finish should be provided. Maher Millard Construction and Philip Westman Landscapes have been appointed to ensure that this is the case.

This is the first physical step towards the Lindongate retail scheme, but Mr Banks said there is a lot of work going on behind the scenes, despite the difficult economic climate.

In the meantime, however, the Society and the Council are conscious of the need to continue supporting existing traders in the Sincil Street area. It is intended that the new car park will be finished and in use well before the Christmas trading period starts in earnest.

Mr Banks said the major new retail development planned for Lindongate cannot start until the Thorngate Car Park and City Bus Station have been relocated.

More news is expected on these elements of the scheme in the near future, including the plans to link the Tentercroft Street area to Sincil Street with a new high quality pedestrian bridge across the eastern end of the Central Railway Station.

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