2021 - The year of the 'new norm' as communities hold on to hope

JANUARY - The arrival of 2021 in Skegness was a much quieter affair than in previous years as Covid-19 restrictions had quashed any plans for large gatherings and parties..

The Clock Tower at midnight as 2021 dawns - a different scene from the previous year when hundreds gathered to welcome in the New Year.

Before the pandemic, bars and clubs would have been buzzing with punters bringing in the New Year in fancy dress and then gathering around the Clock Tower for the countdown.

Driving through the town just before midnight, it seemed that most people had gone to bed and given up on a year that saw a global pandemic force the town's tourism industry to shut its doors on annual festive traditions.

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Seafront businesses were in darkness with the majority of people following government guidelines and staying home to stop the spread of Covid-19.

John Sampson, 80, of Skegness, became the first patient in Skegness to receive the Covid-19 vaccine from advanced nurse practitioner Jane Spence, of Orby, who had come out of retirement to help.

A few people did turn out at the Clock Tower, however, in spite of the warnings, but they quickly scattered into nearby gardens as police patrolled the area on the run-up to midnight.

One couple when asked asked why they had turned out when the country had been asked to stay home replied: "We're out jogging - to get some exercise."

In the villages, community groups which became active during lockdown found ways of spreading the goodwill.

Hoggies - how members of the community in Hogsthorpe now like to be known - opened a virtual room on their Facebook page where everyone could pop in and wish friends a 'Happy New Year'.

Families got out in the fresh air at Gibraltar Point for the #12 Days Wild campaign.

"Most people on line were able to celebrate it with their family and friends on line but it was nice to be there for those who couldn't or wanted to say hello to new friends made in the village," said Kerry Stafford, one of the group's volunteer organisers.

MIRACLE BABY BORN TO DAD WITH COVID

Little 'miracle'. Maddison Esme Phillips brought New Year joy to one local couple.

Darren Flanagan and his partner, Sheridan, had both been isolating at their home in Winthorpe before baby Layla was safely delivered at Boston Pilgrim Maternity Ward on Wednesday, January 27.

Millions tuned in to watch a baby parrot born at Lincolnshire Wildlife Park.

The proud dad, who had been suffering Covid-19, told the Standard he felt he was "brought back to life" seeing his precious daughter arrive into the world.

"I had the dreaded virus in January and I never knew I would make it to see my bundle of joy," he said.

"I didn't know if I would make it let alone see the birth of our baby, Layla."

# 12 DAYS WILD

Little 'miracle'. Maddison Esme Phillips brought New Year Joy to one local couple.

Families were encouraged to get out in the wild after spending Christmas and the New Year in lockdown.

Gibraltar Point Nature Reserve launched a #12DaysWild challenge following evidence that a thriving, wildlife-rich environment benefits both physical and mental health.

People were still being discouraged to travel to places like Gibraltar Point in Skegness - but according to Vicki Bush, Senior Education and Community Officer at the reserve there is much to inspire you right on your doorstep.

Vicki explained: "People were encouraged to do one wild thing a day between the December 25 and January 5.

"It could be little things to help nature like recycling the Christmas tree and cards, feeding the birds or something that connects you with nature, such as taking a walk, watching a sunset and the alignment of Jupiter and Saturn.

"The focus was the outdoors, especially because at Christmas it's easy to stay in eating and watching TV."

Skegness businesswoman Rebecca-Jay Fearn was crowned Miss Lincolnshire.

VACCINATION CENTRES

"Now I can start to get my life back!' - that was the verdict of the first patient in Skegness to receive the Covid-19 vaccine.

John Sampson, 80, arrived at the Storehouse for his 9am appointment - and it couldn't have come a day too soon.

"It didn't hurt at all - it was just like a little push on the arm," he said smiling behind his mask.

"I didn't really feel the needle going in.

"Having this vaccine means the world to me."

This was the start of a massive rollout of vaccination centres across Lincolnshire, including the Storehouse in Skegness and the Franklin Hall in Spilsby - run through the GP-led primary care network model.

Lincolnshire’s first large vaccination centre also opened at Boston’s Princess Royal Sports Arena (PRSA) for people over 80 who lived within a 45-minutes driving distance.

FEBRUARY

MILLIONS WATCH BABY PARROT BORN

Millions of people tuned in on social media to watch a baby parrot born at the Lincolnshire Wildlife Park in Friskney.

The little chick took almost 48 hours to hatch and the wildlife park streamed live on Facebook numerous times, before the Eclectus Parrot was finally born.

Amongst the viewers who were captivated was fashion stylist and television presenter Gok Wan.

However, sadly the parrot did not survive.

Steve Nichols, CEO at Lincolnshire Wildlife Park, announced the tragic news in a video on Facebook on Valentine's Day.

SKEGNESS BUSINESSWOMAN CROWNED MISS LINCOLNSHIRE

Skegness businesswoman Rebecca-Jay Fearn was crowned Miss Lincolnshire.

The 24-year-old former Redcoat at Butlins joined other finalists on Zoom to watch the winner being announced.

Nine finalists had submitted homemade videos of themselves talking to the camera and doing a catwalk, all filmed on their mobile phones. They had also been campaigning for votes on social media and through the Miss England app, raising funds for charity.

Rebecca, who started two businesses after being furloughed during the pandemic - a travel agency and For Hair by Rebecca-Jay - said she was looking forward to being an ambassador Skegness and Lincolnshire in her new role.

SKEGNESS PIER IS SOLD

Skegness Pier, which first opened in 1881, was bought by the Mellors Group who own Fantasy Island in Ingoldmells after the attraction was put up for sale for £3m.

The sale marks a new chapter in the life of one of the UK’s most iconic visitor attractions - with the Mellows announcing plans to return it to its former glory and extend it from where it was damaged beyond repair during a storm in 1978.

Managing director James Mellors said: “I’ve known the pier in Skegness all my life and have long harboured an ambition to acquire the business should it ever come up for sale, so when Christie& Co were appointed, we were in touch straight away.

"Hopefully we’ll be as responsible guardians as the Mitchell’s and Wilkinson’s have been during their near 45-year tenure and we have plans to invest in the property as indeed we typically do with any real estate we acquire.

"It is a very exciting time for our family."

MARCH

COUNTDOWN TO OPENING OF LUMLEY PLAZA

The final countdown began to the much-awaited opening of the Lumley Plaza shopping centre in Skegness in April.

Behind closed doors at what used to be Beales, the town's only department store, traders were busily preparing the 26 boutique style units that lined the ground floor, with their stylish wood paneled frontages and Georgian lighting.

When the Standard first visited the team behind the £400,000 project back in November 2020 at the start of the third lockdown, Lumley Road, where the Plaza is situated, had just received the blow high street giants Topshop, Burton, and Miss Selfridge were on the brink of collapse.

This was in addition to the news Ponden Home, Edinburgh Woollen Mill, Peacocks and M and Co stores were also to close - and that Argos was also under threat.

"The final countdown has begun," said the man behind the vision, Asa Cripsey. "It's exciting that we now have a date to work towards.

"Hopefully, there will be no more interruptions due to the pandemic, which has been tough for businesses."

CAMPAIGN RELAUNCHED TO GET LIGHTS SWITCH BACK ON

The authority that switched off the lights at night across Lincolnshire promised to 'listen' after a petition was relaunched over safety concerns.

Lincolnshire County Council was responding to the reaction of local women following the suspected murder of marketing executive Sarah Everard in South London..

Many readers had contacted the Skegness Standard as it emerged women across the UK were setting up community patrols to keep each other safe - and in Skegness a petition to get the lights switched back on was relaunched.

When the Skegness Standard told Skegness Town Council about the concerns shared on social media by women living in the town, we were assured councillors had not given up the fight to get the lights switched back on.

Since the decision was made by Lincolnshire County Council (LCC) in 2017 to turn off Skegness' lights overnight as part an initiative to save £1.7million, the town council has explored the cost of getting them switch back on.

A Freedom of Information document shared with the Skegness Standard by Coun Steve Warmsley revealed that for a typical Band C property the contribution required by LCC would be '£1 per year'.

The document states: "To break this £1 down further into streetlight maintenance, streetlight electric charge and replacement poles it would only be pennies for each of these per year."

However, former Mayor, Coun Mark Dannatt, told the Standard when in 2019 the council asked LCC how much it would cost to get the lights switched on they were told it would be £512,000 or £256,000 over 20 years if done as part of routine maintenance in 2023/24 - and the authority wanted the money up front as a single payment.

"The county council could not assure us that if the lights were switched on they wouldn't be switched off again," said Coun Dannatt.

"We are coming up to elections soon and policy could change - it was too much of a risk.

"However, that does not mean we have given up the fight. We are a coastal town and when our visitors return and businesses open up we do not want darkness at 10.30pm."

Following the Standard's online article regarding readers' concerns, a petition on change.org was relaunched which is still ongoing with 1010 signatures, alongside further discussions by Skegness Town Council.

To support the petition to get Skegness' lights switched back on, visit 'Getting the Local County Council to turn our street lights back on overnight' on change.org.

SKEGNESS WELCOMES £25M TOWN DEAL

Businesses in Skegness welcomed the announcement the resort was to be offered millions of pounds from the Government’s Towns Fund scheme.

In 2020, Skegness and Mablethorpe joined forces to bid for £50 million, forming the ‘Connected Coast’ board and put forward ambitious projects aimed at creating a more attractive place to live, work and play, and to boost the local economy, leading to more jobs for local people.

The Plans attracted over £30 million of support from local and national organisations and businesses and opened the door for future development across the strategic alliance of East Lindsey District Council and Boston Borough Council.

Chair of the Connected Coast board, Sarah-Louise Fairburn, said: “We are incredibly excited to have achieved two Town Deals for the Lincolnshire Coast, and it is down to the hard work of the Towns Fund team and support of the ambitious Connected Coast board.

“To us, this is the start of a transformative journey and the Towns Fund is just the tip of the iceberg. The hard work starts now and we hope this initial success will act as a catalyst for further investment, creation of jobs and growth on the coast, and even more interest from the private sector."

APRIL

SKEGNESS PREPARES TO WELCOME BACK VISITORS

The organisation supporting businesses in the Skegness area says it was preparing to welcome back visitors with 'excitement and anticipation'.

Non essential retail, self-catering accommodation, pubs and our hairdressers and barbers re-opened on April 12 after months of being closed due to lockdown and Covid-19 restrictions.

Among the retail establishments opening was the new Lumley Plaza shopping centre in the former Beales department store building - and several other new businesses were hoping visitors will give them the support they desperately need to move forward.

Paul Dixon, Chair Skegness Area Business Chamber, said "It is with some excitement and anticipation that we look forward to April 12 and the opening of non essential retail and our hairdressers and barbers.

"The renovations the repainting, the cleaning and the preparation to make premises Covid safe is complete and Skegness business is ready to open.

"We have navigated the winter months and most recently Easter and optimism is high that we are taking the right steps at the right time."

For Carl Wheaton of Seaside Treats, who has taken a kiosk in the newly pedestrianised Tower Esplanade, this will be his first season.

Carl Wheaton of Seaside Treats in Tower Esplanade, Skegness, was ready with warm donuts to tempt visitors over the Easter Bank Holiday weekend.

"We opened on Thursday which was very quiet but are using the time to set up," he said.

"It's been a worrying time and here's still a lot going on with the pedestrianisation of Tower Esplanade but we have been told we can stay open now.

"Hopefully when the sun comes out and as more restrictions are lifted it will be a good year."

TRIBUTES TO PRINCE PHILIP

Skegness paid tribute to Prince Philip, who sadly died at the age of 99.

Buckingham Palace made the announcement on Friday, April 9, that the Duke of Edinburgh had passed away at Windsor Castle.

His death came just weeks after he was discharged from a London hospital for treatment for an infection and to have a heart procedure.

Prince Philip had been the Queen’s husband of more than seven decades and only in recent years retired from British public life.

Although he had not been a regular visitor to the coast, it is recorded that he toured Butlin's with Billy Butlin in Skegness on 23rd September, 1949, along with Princess Margaret. They also visited Natureland during the tour.

Paying tribute to Prince Philip, Butlin's said: "We're very saddened to hear the news on the passing of His Royal Highness, the Duke of Edinburgh who we welcomed to Butlin’s on a number of occasions.

"Our thoughts are with Her Majesty and The Royal Family.".

'SLOW DOWN' CAMPAIGN LAUNCHED

A 'Slow Down' sticker campaign, launched in Skegness by a local PCSO, aimed to save lives across the county.

PCSO Dave Bunker came up with the idea after receiving a rising number of concerns about speeding from the local community.

He researched alternative ways of engaging drivers in road safety campaigns, and found a similar initiative in the USA.

“Over recent months we've been getting increased complaints about speeding motorists," said PCSO Bunker, who has been working with the community in Skegness to combat crime for 15 years.

"I put forward the sticker campaign that has been successful in the US to our teams and we are launching this week.

"We deliberately used the 'Slow Down' message in Lincolnshire to empower members of the community to help us make the roads safer

“Let’s do this together. If average speeds fell by one per cent the number of crashes on our roads would fall by five per cent."

CAMPAIGN LAUNCHED TO STOP SIGNAGE AT CLOCK TOWER

A campaign was launched in tomorrow's edition of the Skegness Standard to stop a plan for signage around the Clock Tower.

Taking up the gauntlet to launch the campaign in the Skegness Standard was former town councillor John Byford

There was a local outcry when the plans were spotted on the East Lindsey District Council website with less than a day to lodge objections.

Residents were asking how knowledge of the plan for historic landmark, which was built to commemorate Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee, seemed to have slipped through the net.

However, East Lindsey District Council has told us that although the deadline for comments has passed, there was time to have your say.

Campaigners were delighted to hear later that the plans had been declined.

MAY

AMBITIOUS PLANS IN NEW GATEWAY SCHEME

Ambitious plans that would create hundreds of new jobs were announced in the new Gateway Scheme.

The proposed masterplan promised to create around 1,000 new homes, specialist accommodation for older people, a tourism offering, a ground-breaking TEC partnership college, crematorium, employment and commercial land as well as significant green spaces and amenities for local people.

Proposals were subject to a Local Development Order (LDO) in conjunction with East Lindsey District Council.

Sue Bowser of Croftmarsh, said: “We have farmed the land for over 30 years with a long-term view that certain areas of land could be used for development, and we are very excited to see those plans starting to take shape.

“We believe that the scheme being proposed will act as a catalyst for positive change for Skegness and position the town in its rightful place in the East Midlands as a place with opportunity and ambition."

SKEGNESS HONOURS CITIZENS

Skegness honoured two of its citizens who had "gone beyond the norm" with awards at a special ceremony which also saw the original Jolly Fisherman paintings by John Hassall were unveiled after their renovation.

John Byford received the town's highest recognition of Honoured Citizen for his public service in promoting the resort at home and abroad, as well his contribution to promoting the arts. Only a handful of citizens have received this honour since it was first awarded in 1979 to former councillor, Elsa Barratt.

Janice Sutton - who has staged variety shows along the Skegness coast and in the West End for over 60 years - was awarded the Skegness Community Award, which is given in recognition of someone who does not necessarily live in Skegness but who has made a contribution to Skegness’ community.

The awards were presented at the Tower Gardens Pavilion ahead of its reopening to the public by the new Mayor of Skegness Coun Trevor Burnham.

NEW DIN0sAUR ATTRACTION ANNOUNCED

Skegness was bracing itself for a dinosaur invasion in a brand new attraction to replace the once popular Model Village.

There had been rumours for some time that the village was being demolished but these were finally confirmed after an image of broken up models was shared on social media.

Generations had visited the attraction on South Parade since it opened in the 1960s - and it was made famous in Brian Sadler's book, Big Joy of Small Villages.

But nostalgia doesn't pay for its upkeep - and owners Teen Spirit said they had been forced to make the tough decision about its future.

Charlton Cooper, a director for Teen Spirit which also owns Skegness Aquarium next door, said it was hoped the new dinosaur attraction would be ready by July.

"People are not interested in model villages anymore and since we took over the Model Village six years ago we have seen the numbers of visitors decline," he explained.

"We have to move forward and already we have had a lot of positive response about our plans."

POLICE CAMPAIGN TO DRIVE OUT DRUGS

Drugs were found hidden in car heading to Skegness for "quite the party" during the return of a special multi-agency police operation.

Thousands of people headed to the coast for the Bank Holiday weekend - and the message was clear: 'Criminals will not be tolerated'.

Operation California was headed up by Police Neighbourhood Lead for the Lincs Coast area Insp Colin Haigh and saw the local police working alongside East Lindsey District Council, Royal Air Force dog handlers and British Transport Police to deter criminals bringing drugs to the coast.

They searched 20 venues, some more than once, visited Skegness, Chapel St Leonards and Ingoldmells and interacted with hundreds of people.

The operation was held with the co-operation of local bars who want customers to feel safe in their venues, including the Lumley and Churchills Wine and Sports Bar in Skegness.

Multi-agency operations like this have become a regular site along the coast since they were launched in 2017, when Insp Haigh was last in charge of the area.

When the Skegness Standard joined them, visitors at the bars told us they had no objection to being swabbed at the entrance of the venues for drugs and 'had never felt so safe'.

Dogs were used to help sniff out any drugs at bars along the coast.

Insp Colin Haigh told the Standard: "We recognise that this summer season is going to be really busy with hotels and caravan sites reporting record bookings.

"The police and our partners want to support the local economy by ensuring that coastal resorts continue to be safe places to live, work and visit.

"The message is clear, if you come to the coast with criminal intent, we will apply the law to its full extent."

NEW MEMBER OF COUNCIL LOOKING FORWARD TO CHALLENGE

A former seaside photographer found herself the other side of the camera when she was elected onto Skegness Town Council.

Conservative Julie Sadler stood in the Woodlands ward of the Parish By-election for the seat which became vacant when Coun Bob Walker moved up north.

Her unsuccessful opponents were Gary Owen Ellis (Labour Party) and Declan Hawkins (Skegness Urban District Society).

It was second time lucky for Coun Sadler, who last stood for election two years ago.

"May I take this opportunity to thank everyone that voted for me and indeed thank those too that didn't, yet did turn out to vote," she said.

"I'm looking forward to my challenge ahead. My pledge to the residents of Skegness is I will work hard and tirelessly on your behalf and be a strong voice for you."

Tories won outright control in the Lincolnshire County Council elections. In total 70 seats were up for grabs in the chamber, with 54 won by the Tories.

NEW MAYOR LOOKS FORWARD TO GETTING OUT THERE

The new Mayor of Skegness said he couldn't wait to put on his chain of office and once again get involved with the community.

Coun Trevor Burnham was invested during the Town Council's annual meeting.

Because of Covid-19 restrictions, the meeting was held on zoom, without the usual ceremony associated with the occasion.

There was no official handover or speeches and special charity meal afterwards with invited guests.

Presentations were deferred until they are able to meet in person.

The chain of office, which had been delivered to his home earlier, was put around Coun Burnham's neck by his wife, the new Mayoress Jane Burnham. Coun Burnham returned the honour for his Mayoress.

"It wasn't an enjoyable night - we had two thunderstorms during the meeting and lost signal which didn't help," Coun Burnham recalled.

"Afterwards I went for a walk around town and suddenly thought 'I'm the number one - how did that happen?'

"I'm just a 'poor boy from Coventry' who cares about the community."

JUNE

VIGIL FOR BETHANY AND DJ

Friends, relatives, and local well-wishers came together in Chapel St Leonards on Monday, June 7, to mark one week since the tragic deaths of Bethany Vincent and her son Darren ‘DJ’ Henson.

As reported previously, Daniel Boulton, 29, has been charged with the murders of Bethany, 26, and Darren, 9, at a property in High Holme Road, Louth, on the evening of May 31.

The vigil was held on Chapel St Leonards village green, where flowers were laid and candles were lit in memory of Bethany and Darren.

Skegness vicar the Revd Richard Holden, who led the tributes and lit candles on Monday evening, told the Standard: "The deaths were a really terrible thing.

“Bethany went to school there [Chapel St Leonards], and the community wanted a moment to gather together to celebrate their lives and share a moment of memories."

CAMPAIGN TO STOP PEDESTRIANISATION OF LUMLEY ROAD

Controversial proposals to pedestrianise a Skegness shopping street brought claims from residents and businesses that they had no idea about the plans.

Lumley Road corridor plans were revealed in May and would l see an 18-month trial of a traffic-free corridor along a section of Lumley Road to provide 'a safe, dedicated and pleasant space for pedestrians and cyclists in central Skegness as well as allowing traders increased outdoor space to operate'.

As a result of concerns, Coun Billy Brookes, the town's deputy Mayor, took up the gauntlet on the behalf of residents and traders to let Lincolnshire County Council and Skegness' county councillors "know how people are feeling".

He launched the petition - 'Stop the pedestrianisation of Lumley Road, Skegness' - at change.org after receiving "countless calls" from people claiming they knew nothing about the consultation.

Coun Brookes described the scheme as an "idealistic vision where businesses can make use of more space with thousands of cyclists making use of the corridor".

However, in the "real world", he says the residential roads where vehicles would be diverted would not stand the extra volume of traffic.

SKEGNESS CELEBRATES WORLD CUP WIN

Cheers could be hear across town when a bar in Skegness went all out for England's first match in Euro 20.

Churchills Wine & Sports Bar in Algitha Road had three 50" TVs outside and bookable seating indoors for the screens there so customers could get behind their team.

England s Euro 2020 campaign got off to a winning start as Raheem Sterling's goal secured victory over Croatia at Wembley.

Soaking up the atmosphere with the customers were Churchills' owners Heidi and Paul Farrell. Dress in red and white Paul even painted his face as the England flag.

"It was a nice atmosphere and luckily the right result for the fans!," said Heidi.

Skegness Pier, which first opened in 1881, was bought by the Mellors Group
Donna Baldwin preparing to take her business, Moonyean, to the new Lumley Plaza in Skegness.
The Duke of Edinburgh with Sir Billy Butlin on his visit to Skegness Butlin's. Photo: Butlin's.
John Siddle from the Lincolnshire Road Safety Partnership and PCSO Dave Bunker with their bumper stickers for the new campaign they want drivers to get behind.
John Byford launching a campaign agained signage at the Clock Tower in Skegness.
Pictured (from left) are Sue Bowser of Croftmarsh, Matt Warman MP, Coun Tom Ashton and Neil Sanderson of Croftmarsh on the proposed Skegness Gateway site
Dinosaurs being stored in Skegness ahead of being installed at the former Model Village site in Skegness.
Operation California saw customers at bars in the area being drugs tested.
The community came together to remember Bethany and Darren. Photo: David Dawson.
Coun Billy Brookes launched a petition against the part-pedestrianisation of Lumley Road.
Paul and Heidi Farrell welcoming fans to Churchills Wine & Sports Bar in Skegness.
Skegness honoured John Byford (left) and Janice Sutton at an awards ceremony with the Mayor and Mayoress of Skegness Coun Trevor and Jane Burnham and the deputy Mayor, Coun Billy Brookes.