Town’s Riverside Precinct earmarked for facelift

The Riverside Precinct, Sleaford. EMN-150121-133446001
The Riverside Precinct, Sleaford. EMN-150121-133446001

A Sleaford shopping precinct is in line for a makeover costing hundreds of thousands of pounds – provided planners give the green light.

Lincolnshire Co-operative, which owns the Riverside Shopping Centre in Sleaford, is keen to breathe new life into the pedestrianised precinct, off Southgate. Almost half the shop units currently stand empty.

Upgrading work would be carried out in two phases.

The Society’s agent, Chartered Surveyor Banks Long and Co is preparing to submit a planning application to North Kesteven District Council, following talks between the firm and the council’s economic development officers. It is hoped that councillors will agree to a range of cosmetic changes.

Banks Long and Co Director James Butcher said: “We want to begin the first phase of work - which will involve a substantial investment - in the Spring. The aim is to inject fresh impetus into this important development, which is made up of seventeen retail and office units, plus some first floor flats.

“The phase one proposals include opening up the central courtyard area, by removing the existing bandstand and a display unit. There are also plans to remove the colonnades fronting the shops along the southern side of the development.

“The idea is to improve these substantially, by removing the existing, dated cladding on the front of shop units and revamping the ground and upper floor elevations.

“If all goes well, Lincolnshire Co-operative is hoping to invest a further sum of money in upgrading the western block of properties in Riverside, through a second phase of work.”

Mr Butcher said they had an estimated figure for the project but could not divulge it yet. He awent on: “The Co-op have had various discussions with the district council over the past 12 months and on the back of that we have appreciated the shop units have fallen into a fairly sad state of repairs. They have been on our radar for some time and we’re now looking to crack on as soon as we can.

“It does not look great at the moment but we are taking steps to get it back to how it was.”

He said that since the New Year and the decision by Tesco not to relocate to a new store has led to enquiries by national retailers who would no longer have an option to move into the existing supermarket site.

Mr Butcher said: “We can offer that bigger floor space needed by combining existing units. In a lot of Sleaford shops you are restricted by different owners and differing floor levels.”

He explained that their intentions to combine units had led to the number of shops staying unfilled for some time: “It is a bit of a vicious circle as it doesn’t look good but interest shown since the New Year means we are confident we will have takers for that space.”

Lincolnshire Co-operative Chief Executive Ursula Lidbetter said: “Over the past few years the Riverside Shopping Centre has attracted a wide range of businesses, from card shops to cafés, pet stores and hairdressers.

“This development also provides a useful link from Southgate to a supermarket and 100-space car park behind, so it attracts a regular footfall and the potential of extra passing trade for tenants.

“We expect the first phase of work to take about 13 weeks to complete. Existing Riverside businesses will be able to continue trading as normal throughout and we hope that our improvements will attract other new enterprises to this area.”

There had been accusations at public meetings in the town in the past about potential businesses being deterred from locating in the precinct by high rents. Spokesperson for Lincolnshire Co-op Michelle Scott said: “Some of the units, particularly in the western block, have been kept empty to allow for a second phase of work to be carried out. Our unit rent price is competitive with others in the local area and we hope that our improvements will attract new enterprises to the shopping centre.”

A spokesman for North Kesteven District Council said the authority had been suggesting a scheme to help refurbish the precinct after concerns about its appearance and anticipated a planning application to be made within a couple of weeks.