Sleaford Market Place plans set to return for third round with North Kesteven planning committee

Residents in Sleaford are planning to deliver a petition, signed by hundreds of locals, to North Kesteven District Council — triggering an unprecedented full council debate on the Market Place development plans after intense opposition to the proposals.
Sleaford Market Place plans - the planters would be reduced in size by 10 per cent until revised proposals.Sleaford Market Place plans - the planters would be reduced in size by 10 per cent until revised proposals.
Sleaford Market Place plans - the planters would be reduced in size by 10 per cent until revised proposals.

North Kesteven District Council unveiled its grand vision last year to redevelop the space, opting for proposed pedestrianisation of the square to encourage longer term footfall in the town.

However, the more than £1 million designs have been sent back to the drawing board twice in recent weeks, as residents and business owners alike turned out in numbers to oppose the plans — which some claim will kill businesses on the square and impact the local economy as a whole.

Proposals included new paving installed on the Market Place and surrounding footpaths, as well as lighting to illuminate St Deny’s Church and the war memorial.

Petitioner Anthony Hensen.Petitioner Anthony Hensen.
Petitioner Anthony Hensen.

After being sent back for deferral, the latest proposals now offer parking for up to eight blue badge holders three days a week (Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays), a reduction to the size of the planters, new marked blue badge space in Church Lane and Money’s Yard car parks, and a pledge to liaise with the county council on lowering the kerbs next to the a new blue badge space outside the library as well as a second one to be located there instead of the cycle racks. There would also be limited disabled parking permitted for Sunday church services, weddings and funerals

An initial white paper petition, signed by people in the area, amassed more than 1,700 signatures as residents made their feelings heard on the matter despite the district council’s commitment to delivering the scheme.

Now, by using the council’s petition portal, a fresh one has been made to take directly to North Kesteven District Council, in a bid for voices to be heard even louder. That was signed in its hundreds, with the figure still rising at the time of reporting, and is expected to trigger a debate at the next full council meeting.

Anthony Henson, a disabled resident from Sleaford who has been the leading figure against the Market Place redevelopment, will deliver his pink paper petition to North Kesteven District Council’s offices on Tuesday, and says he expects there to be more than 500 unique signatures on there.

Sleaford town councillor Dave Darmon.Sleaford town councillor Dave Darmon.
Sleaford town councillor Dave Darmon.

This meets the requirement for a petition to be debated at full council, and it has been claimed that this is the first time ever a signature has met this threshold in such a short space of time, as more than 300 signatures were collected in just over a week during the Christmas holidays.

It is expected to trigger a debate at NKDC Full Council on January 25, however the revised plans will be considered by the planning committee on January 16.

Mr Henson said that, ironically, NKDC’s proposal for the Market Place has ironically united the people of Sleaford.

“The Shared Prosperity Fund (which NKDC plans to use to fund the scheme) is designed to promote business and employment opportunities in areas across the country, and this proposal does nothing of the sort,” he said. “It’s taking away a space that generates between £1-2 million for the local economy each year in retail income for the town.

“Bizarrely, it is creating a sense of community in Sleaford, though, in that we’re seeing large numbers of people rush out to oppose the plans.”

Discussing the upcoming debate at full council, Anthony said it would be “interesting” to see it play out in front of the council rather than merely the planning committee, saying it will allow fresh concerns to be raised that are beyond the remit of simply planning.

“It allows us to raise things which the planning committee cannot consider, such as business and social impact. As we approach an election, the electorate have a weight and power they don’t have directly after an election.

“Hopefully it can generate enough debate and a chance for the public to be consulted properly. If you ask your wife if you should decorate the living room, you won’t survive the marriage if you don’t ask her what colour it should be first.”

Sleaford Town Councillor Dave Darmon has been particularly vocal in his opposition to the district council’s Market Place redevelopment.

He said: “Following the second deferral, NKDC’s agents have published a revised plan which now includes eight disabled spaces, which is remarkable considering they have previously said that there wasn’t enough space for three disabled spaces within the Market Square; let alone eight!

“The majority of Sleaford people don’t want this poorly thought out scheme. It seems that Disabled Blue Badge holders will be able to park in the Square on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, unless they are a Blue Badge holder attending a church event and then they can park there on other days.

“The Save Sleaford group have now got more than enough signatures to force a debate at the NKDC Full Council Meeting which I believe is the first time that this has happened.”

Coun Darmon went on: “Let’s hope that common sense comes into play and they spend the money elsewhere in town, perhaps a cinema? There were previously plans to have a cinema in Sleaford as part of the Heart of Sleaford development which stalled a few years ago.”

As for Bellissimo Boutique, a local business on the Market Place, one of its owners Wendy Hanslip said it’s been “fantastic” to see the levels of public opposition to the plans, saying people are “waking up to the damage” it could cause.

Wendy said: “The planning process has been a farce and again public objections are being ignored. Each deferment just adds more pressure on us and NKDC needs to make a decision one way or another.

“Hopefully the voice of the people will be heard and hopefully NKDC will listen to that voice. They haven’t done so far though and so time is running out. This is why people need to make their objections known strongly and loudly.”

After the plan was first deferred in November, North Kesteven District Council leader Councillor Richard Wright said: “I’ve listened to the debate and I’ve understood the questions that have been asked.

“What this does is give us that opportunity to look at where those thoughts are, where the concerns are, and make sure that any scheme that comes back actually addresses those concerns and we get it right.

“At the end of the day, this is about doing the right thing for Sleaford and not the wrong thing. We want to make sure we can present a scheme that addresses those concerns.”

In recommending permission for the plans, planning officers say the applicant has continued to revise their proposals and make "reasonable adjustments” with the commitment to provide new dedicated disabled car parking spaces within the town centre and access for business deliveries and specific church events.

They said this is now further complemented by the arrangement for accommodating disabled car parking on specific days and times, similar to what is done in Lincoln, Louth other locations. There is some concern expressed by the Conservation Officer that these parking arrangements may impact on the improved view of the heritage area but, with the limited times and days, they were still in favour.

The planning officer adds: “The modest reduction to the size of the planters is resultant of the further provisions now offered by the applicant, and your Conservation Officer supports these amendments noting that they will reinforce the openness of Market Place whilst still encouraging dwell time.

“Accordingly, officers continue to recommend that planning permission be granted.”