New vision being shaped for Sleaford’s Market Place

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Sleaford Market Place visual one

Plans are being drawn up to reinvigorate Sleaford’s Market Place as an enhanced public space where people can spend longer enjoying the town centre and all it offers.

Owned and operated by North Kesteven District Council, the Market Place’s primary function is currently as a car park, with a market run by Sleaford Town Council three days a week.

Under the plans – which have just been submitted for formal consideration – parking would cease in the square, the market would remain and the entire area be upgraded into an improved public space for residents and visitors to enjoy and better support public events, as demonstrated by the 2022 RiverLight Festival. 

The scheme which, if successful would be funded by more than £1m of a government grant for economic renewal, has been worked up as a priority action in direct response to a long-held aspiration for improved public space at the heart of the town.

North Kesteven District Council Leader Councillor Richard Wright said:

“As the main town square for Sleaford, the Market Place cannot currently fulfil its potential due to its daily use as a car park and the limitations that places on it. 

“The vision to refresh and repurpose it into a predominantly pedestrian-space would provide a comfortable, car-free area in the town centre for people to linger and spend longer whilst going about their business in Sleaford. Such a welcoming central space to relax in and enjoy will be of great benefit to the town, socially, culturally and economically. As a new facility for residents and visitors, our hope is that it will also help increase overall footfall, dwell-time and trade in the town centre, for the benefit of all.”

Under the proposal, the entire Market Place and surrounding footpaths would be refreshed with new paving in keeping with the area’s heritage, highlighting the key features of St Denys’ Church and the war memorial, which would be lit to showcase its importance.

With two raised planting beds and seating, the restored Market Place would be a more welcoming space to meet and provide conditions to hopefully facilitate a renewed vibrancy of the market itself. It would also accommodate the potential for additional café seating/spill out space along its northern edge, whilst complementing that recently installed outside the Sessions House. 

Along the Market Place frontage, additional bench seating and planters, the up-lighting of the feature trees and new lighting will to create ambience in the evenings, and removal of the market place hut will open up views and create better access on foot. 

The scheme is designed in such a way as to ensure that the market can still operate from the square, however in a much safer and pedestrian-friendly environment with no conflict with vehicles. Limited vehicle access will remain in place for weddings and funerals, at the discretion of the church.

There is nearby parking at Church Lane and Eastgate and service delivery vehicles can use the loading bays adjacent to Market Place or Market Street when visiting businesses. Market traders will be able to unload before moving their vehicles to a nearby car park.

A full planning application will be open for public comment and responses shortly, with residents, traders and those with a wider interest invited to have their say as part of the planning process. 

If granted planning permission, the project would receive in excess of £1million from the UK Government through the UK Shared Prosperity Fund. The Market Place would close to vehicles in late spring 2024 as contractors arrive onsite and it would potentially be ready to reopen as a refreshed space in early 2025. 

“Knowing what a major change this represents, we have given deep consideration to the likely impacts of the work as well as the benefits the finished space would bring to Sleaford,” said Cllr Wright.

“We have been gifted this UK Shared Prosperity Fund allocation and It is important that we don’t miss the opportunity to make use of it to reinvigorate a key location at the heart of Sleaford, to bring about lasting and positive change for Sleaford town centre and our wider local economy in North Kesteven.”

“In seeking to fulfil a long-held aspiration expressed for the town, we have brought forward a proposal which we feel will give renewed purpose to this historic space, restore it as a significant asset and reimagine it with fresh potential for community use in such a beautiful setting,” he said.

Talks are ongoing with stakeholders to assess the implications of the intended works on the regular market, businesses and other activities; and similarly, the Council will liaise over other anticipated events in the Market Place during the proposed construction period.

This would include a plan to provide market traders with a temporary new location in the town centre to operate from while the works take place. Also the need for schools to make alternative pick-up locations for buses.

The potential of the Market Place to become an enhanced public space which benefits the town centre has long been an ambition for the town and has been outlined as a positive intervention in previous feasibility studies, including the Sleaford Masterplan Refresh last year and the original Sleaford Masterplan. 

Once the application is validated, it will be available to view and respond to on the Planning Online portal.

FAQs

Why are you removing car parking from the Market Place?

It is widely acknowledged that a town’s distinctiveness and specific or unique features are key to its success as a destination for both visitors and residents to enjoy. The size and scale of the Market Place are significant and identifying features for Sleaford. It is the main town square for Sleaford, but it’s not currently fulfilling its potential due to its daily use as a car park and the limitations that places on it. 

It’s been a long-term aspiration of the Council to regenerate the Market Place as enhanced public realm, and it has also been outlined – and consulted on – as a positive intervention in previous feasibility studies including the Sleaford Masterplan Refresh last year and the original Sleaford Masterplan.

Now that UKSPF funds are available and have been allocated, and because they need to be spent by March 2025 to ensure they can be used for the project, we are working hard not to miss the opportunity to utilise this funding for Sleaford and ensure it can happen.

The town centre is served by a number of other central car parks, however this is a rare and exciting opportunity to generate a really positive change for Sleaford and its local economy, and one which will have benefit for the wider District too by building North Kesteven’s offer.

What is your evidence to suggest removing car parking from Market Place will benefit the town?

Covid showed us how much people value their local centre, but as people can and do travel further once again, we need to ensure that Sleaford can compete with other destinations. We need to act now to futureproof the town centre and ensure it can continue to offer the best possible experience for everyone.

Car parking is an important part of this, however Sleaford is already served well by both central and outlying car parks which only have car parking as their main purpose and are all charged at reasonable rates which have been frozen for this year.

The Market Place is a historic location however, and one which has the potential to provide a central and welcoming space for people to utilise while in the town centre.

I’m disabled/someone I know is. Where will they park?

It’s important to ensure that everyone has equal and easy access to Sleaford town centre.

There are disabled spaces in the town’s other central car parks which offer dedicated, marked bays and take into consideration the needs of those using these spaces. 

Aren’t you just pushing everyone towards your other car parks to make more money?

Removing car parking from Market Place actually represents a loss of income for the Council, but we are confident that this is the right thing to do for the local economy, business and tourism in Sleaford and North Kesteven.

Sleaford town centre is served by both central and outlying car parks which only have car parking as their main purpose and don’t have the same history, heritage and community importance as The Market Place.  

While car parking is a revenue stream for the Council, car parking charges at Council car parks have in fact been frozen for this year. 

I own a business and I believe I will lose money because of this. What will you be doing to support businesses? 

The Council remains committed to supporting those businesses that operate within the town centre. It is hoped that these changes, if approved, will help the town to flourish by encouraging more people to the area and to spend longer in the Market Place itself. There is adequate parking provision throughout the town and close by to the Market Place.

Since the Council took the decision to allow outdoor dining in the Market Place, there has been an increase in footfall within the area.

The Council has its own Business Adviser who offers the following services and would be more than willing to offer their time to businesses within Sleaford:

  • Start-up advice
  • Business planning
  • Grants & funding
  • Development & skills
  • Sales & marketing

The Economic Development Team can be contacted on 01529 414155 or ecodev@n-kesteven.gov.uk to arrange a session with our adviser.

Who is paying for this? 

If granted planning permission, the project would receive in excess of £1 million from the UK Government through the UK Shared Prosperity Fund.

The UK Shared Prosperity Fund is a central pillar of the UK government’s Levelling Up agenda and provides £2.6 billion of funding for local investment by March 2025. The Fund aims to improve pride in place and increase life chances across the UK investing in communities and place, supporting local business, and people and skills.

Now that UKSPF funds are available and have been allocated, and because they need to be spent by March 2025 to ensure they can be used for the project, we are working hard not to miss the opportunity to utilise this funding for Sleaford and ensure it can happen.

How do we get a say on whether this should happen or not? How will residents and businesses get a say? 

A full planning has been submitted. It can be found on the Planning Online portal on the Council’s website.

Residents, traders and wider stakeholders are invited to comment there as part of the planning process. 

Have you told the market traders and businesses? What about the schools? How are you making parents aware? 

Sleaford Town Council, who manages the market, those businesses around Market Place, secondary schools in the town along with other key stakeholders directly affected by the plans have also been contacted by the project team, and we will continue to liaise with them as needed.

What happens next? Who is deciding this? 

A full planning application is being consulted on. If it requires the consideration of Councillors on a planning committee this may be heard in an open meeting in October or November. Subject to the outcome, further work will be needed to draw up detailed designs and scope the work to begin in 2024.

The planning decision outcome will be publicised and – if the project goes ahead – regular updates will be provided by the Council.

Who’s going to cut the grass in the planted areas? Will you not plant it as wildflowers?

The maintenance of the landscaped areas will be carried out by NKDC. Grass will be used as it is an area whereby we want members of the public to spend their dwell time and use the space. It also connects well with the adjacent church grounds.

image gallery | Sleaford market visual

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