District Council revisits Sleaford Market Place plans but still faces opposition
However, opponents continue to criticise the plans, claiming they discriminate against disabled visitors, take away valuable events and market space, and will negatively impact businesses, market traders, and St Denys’ Church.
The £1 million plans to transform Sleaford’s Market Place, aimed at reshaping the town’s heart, were deferred during last month’s planning committee meeting after councillors raised concerns over fair access, the materials used, engagement with heritage assets, the loss of traders’ toilets, deliveries, and protection of the war memorial.
NKDC leaders believe the changes — funded partly by the government’s UK Shared Prosperity Fund – will turn the historic Market Place into a magnet for both locals and visitors. The council’s vision is to replace car park spaces with paving, mood lighting, and seating areas, creating a vibrant public space with extra outdoor seating.
However, the plans have received over 100 objections, including a petition with more than 1,000 signatures.
The amended plans propose increasing disabled parking by two spaces – an extra one on Eastgate outside the library and one in nearby Church Lane Car Park. On Sundays, disabled users attending church services will be allowed access, with churchwardens managing bollard access. As part of these plans, the car-shaped bike rack installed a few years ago will be relocated.
However, despite initially considering adding three permanent disabled parking spaces on Market Place, the authority still views such parking as “detrimental to the space’s utility for market traders, church vehicles, and events, and potentially unsightly and harmful to the historic setting”.
Time-controlled delivery access for Market Place businesses is proposed, with owners given keys to the bollards for access.
A variety of seating solutions are proposed to allow visitors to engage with the heritage assets of the area, including bench seating and a seating wall around landscaped beds.
Plans to remove protective bollards and chains around the war memorial have been withdrawn, and instead, the existing bollards will be repainted black, as opposed to their current black and gold colouring.
The existing market hut, which includes a locked toilet for market traders, will still be removed. The council said alternative public toilet provision is nearby.
The council continues to believe that the materials will respect the market and respond to its historic setting.
A North Kesteven District Council spokesperson said: “Having taken some time to consider in detail the six points raised at Planning Committee and how they can be addressed within the proposals for Market Place, the council has now submitted the information requested in response.
“This does include some amendments to the proposed scheme, for example time-controlled access for business deliveries, retaining protection for the war memorial and some suggestions on creating additional disabled parking provision nearby.”
Everyone who commented on the original application is being notified in writing to let them know that additional information has now been published and there is opportunity to review and comment specifically on this new information. A number of consultees who were invited to comment on the original application will also be invited to comment on this.
The additional information can be read in full at https://planningonline.n-kesteven.gov.uk (search for application number 23/0803/FUL). Residents have until December 1 to comment on the amended plans before they go before the planning committee, with the next meeting currently set to take place on December 12.
Disability campaigner and organiser of the Save Sleaford Facebook group, Anthony Henson, said the changes were “not sufficient”.
“The additional parking does not compensate for the loss of more than 50 spaces currently available to disabled people in the market square.
“The idea that the church only operates on Sundays… completely ignores the fact that services happen on other days – they have weddings and funerals happening on other days.
“They’re discriminating against those people, both on the basis of disability and on the basis of religion.”
He expressed frustration over a lack of communication and cooperation from the council in discussing the changes with local people.
He also criticised NKDC for prioritising built assets over the social heritage value in the historic setting.
“If you block people off, you block the market traders from trading in the way they have for hundreds of years.
“It’s destroying that lifeline of history.”
“We all want to see investment in Sleaford that does what the shared prosperity fund says it should do: increase business chances, increase life opportunities, and those sorts of things.
“Using the fund in this way does not achieve any of that, but there are so many things that you could spend the money on in Sleaford, which do that.”
Ken Hanslip, fellow campaigner and Market Place beauty boutique business owner, who spoke at the recent planning committee meeting, supported Anthony’s comments.
“The amendments haven’t made any difference to the plans proposed initially; they tinker at the edges of the issues but don’t actually resolve them,” he said.
He argued that disabled parking spaces should be a priority for the authority.
“It will drive people away from the shops and more importantly, away from the church… St Denys is a Grade One listed building, but an empty Grade One listed building doesn’t do the community any good.”
He mentioned that the Sleaford Market Group had made two approaches to NKDC to be involved in the rejigging of the market, but had been rejected.
“The result’s not surprising; they don’t understand the complexity of the multi-use market place that we have.
“If they’d only come to talk to us, we’d have helped them resolve this. They will not talk to us, and that’s such a shame. It’s such a waste of public money.”
There were also fears that vehicles might get stuck in the square under the new measures, while visually impaired people might not be able to see the single-coloured bollards.
Following the “packed” Remembrance Sunday parade, Mr Hanslip has made official complaints to MP Caroline Johnson and Secretary of State Michael Gove, who oversees the spending of UKSPF funding – some of which is going towards the Market revamp.