Video - Council leader describes new vision for Sleaford town centre with £1m revamp for market place
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Under the plans by owners North Kesteven District Council – which have just been submitted for formal consideration – parking would cease in the Market Place and the market would remain, run three days a week by Sleaford Town Council.
The entire area would be upgraded to better support public events as demonstrated by the 2022 RiverLight Festival.
The scheme would be funded by more than £1m of a government grant for economic renewal in a long-held aspiration for improved public space at the heart of the town.
If given the go-ahead by planners in the autumn, work should start by May 2024.
It should take up to seven months to complete.
North Kesteven District Council leader, Coun 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.
“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,” said Coun Wright.
Under NKDC’s proposal, the entire Market Place and surrounding footpaths would be refreshed with new paving in keeping with the area’s heritage, highlighting key features of St Denys’ Church and the war memorial, which would be lit to showcase it.
With two raised planting beds and seating, it is claimed the area would be a more welcoming space to meet and boost the market itself. It would also accommodate the potential for additional café seating space along its northern edge, complementing that recently installed outside the Sessions House.
Along the Market Place frontage, additional benches and planters, up-lighting of feature trees and new lighting will be added 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.
Market traders will be able to unload before moving their vehicles to a nearby car park, says NKDC.
Residents, traders and those with a wider interest are invited to have their say on the new plans as part of the process. View plans at www.n-kesteven.gov.uk/planningonline
The aim to enhance the Market Place has been outlined in previous feasibility studies, including the Sleaford Masterplan.
If granted planning permission, the project would receive in excess of £1 million from the UK Government through the UK Shared Prosperity Fund. The Market Place would close to vehicles in late spring 2024 as contractors arrive on site 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 Coun 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.”
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, but it will not affect this year’s Christmas Market.
Market traders would be offered a temporary new location in the town while the works take place and alternative pick-up locations will be needed for school buses.