Plaza set to breathe new life into Skegness high street

Exciting plans for a new shopping plaza are set to breathe much-needed life into the high street in Skegness.

Signs something is happening can be seen through the entrance of the former Beales Department store.

The £400.000 development inside the former Beales department store has been unveiled to the Skegness Standard.

Early next year all three floors of the original building will showcase the Lumley Shopping Plaza, offering something for all the family - and dogs are welcome, too.

There will be 35 individual boutique-style retail units of varying sizes, selling a range of quality goods including clothes and footwear for all the family, electricals. mobile phones, cosmetics, confectionary and gifts.

Units taking shape on the first floor.

Negotiations are also currently taking place to reinstate the Post Office on the second floor and expand on the services offered.

On the top floor will be a garden centre featuring a number of departments including Yankee candle, a man cave, cosmetics and a pets section. There will also be spacious restaurant area and an events space where there could be pop-up shops on special craft weeks, pumpkin carving during Hallowe’en and other attractions over the different holidays during the year.

Workmen are currently fitting the units and updating the building, with the opening date scheduled for around the February 2021 half-term.

The positive news follows last week’s announcement high street giants Topshop, Burton, and Miss Selfridge is reportedly on the brink of collapse.

The garden centre will be on the third floor, next to a large restaurant area.

The group, who has roughly seven stores, including in Lincoln, Boston and Skegness, across Lincolnshire, said the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown closures had ‘had a material impact on trading across our businesses’.

Already it has been announced Lumley Road will lose Ponden Home, Edinburgh Woollen Mill, Peacocks and M and Co stores - and Argos is also under threat.

However, for some businesses lockdown has created opportunities. The Standard was invited to meet the man behind the vision for the Beales building, Asa Cripsey, to see how the ambitious venture is progressing.

Grandson of one of the coast’s well-known businessmen, Roy Cripsey - who once had the Wall of Death in Skegness, it was easy to see where he inherited his nerve to start such a massive project during challenging times.

The Post Office is to be re-instated in the building and expanded.

“For me lockdown has brought an opportunity to bring Lumley Road into the 21st century and create something special - a real hub for families,” said Asa.

“This is what I love, ripping things out and building something really smart.”

Asa returned to the coast six years ago after a 16-year career with the Met Police. “The family have been in the holiday industry all my life. Mum and dad, Gary and Carol Cripsey, have mainly been in pubs, but I left to go to London, with the plan to take up plumbing when I left the Met Police and move to Australia.

“However, the company I was training with went under before I qualified and so that scuppered that idea.

The Cripsey family's garden centre project which has proved popular in Mablethorpe.

“So I came back and helped mum and dad set up a garden centre in Mablethorpe in the former Book In Hand building which has turned out really well - and then came the first lockdown.”

However, with time on their hands came opportunity - and the untimely closure of the only department store in Skegness.

“The garden centre in Mablethorpe turned out really well and so I pitched my idea to the landlords of the Beales building, Panther Securities PLC," said Asa.

“It’s a small world as it seems the mother of the guy who deals with lettings happens to have been my sergeant when I was in the Met Police.

“The company have been really supportive and are investing in updating the building, including installing a much-needed new lift, as many people have told me the old one was always breaking down.

“There has been no heating in the building for two years because the boiler broke down and we are also installing new energy efficient lighting.

“The frontage is also getting a facelift and we will be using our forecourt space with barrow and kiosks to make it look really smart.”

Asa got the keys in August, negotiating with East Lindsey District Council in preparation of the plans.

“ELDC have been very supportive, acknowledging the only way the building would work going forward is to break it up into units,” said Asa.

“It’s been interesting seeing the gossip on Facebook - many people think we are building an indoor market and it will certainly not be that.

“We are delighted with the quality of the units we have already signed - for instance a woman from Kenya will be opening her first shop in the UK selling hand-made bath bombs and skincare and we have someone else making personalised street signs.

“We are also pleased to announce that Lincolnshire Wildlife Park will be our chosen charity and we will be raising money for them during the year.”

Many will recognise one local name who has already secured her unit - Sue Foye of Toggs.

Sue has run her designer clothes business in Rutland Road over the past 31 years but said she feared for her future there due the the effect of Covid-19 restrictions.

“I’m really looking forward to the plaza opening,” she said. “This opportunity came out of the blue and I know there are rumours about what it will be.

“People who know me know I would never sell on a market. It’s been really tough this year and thank goodness for this project for people like me and the residents.”