North Kesteven District Council is buying Navigation Yard at the historic core of Sleaford which it says is an investment to build on the town’s economic growth.
With legal contracts just days away from finalisation, a scheme is being drawn up for the operation of the six workshop units which have previously been leased from the Hatcher family by the council exclusively in support of craft-based businesses.
They are envisaged as retail, craft or office units to support the craft industry and the adjacent National Centre for Craft and Design.
A longer term plan is for them to play an active part in the Sleaford Masterplan vision, which includes developing an east-west walking route linking leisure interests throughout the town along the course of the river.
The purchase includes peppercorn ground leases on the National Centre and adjacent flats and represents significant potential for annual income, says the council.
Coun Geoff Hazelwood, NKDC executive board member, said: “This was a rare opportunity to acquire the freehold of such a key central location where the council’s main cultural facility was based and with potential for further retail growth.
“It represents a golden opportunity to develop the town’s growing reputation for fostering excellence in craft and design and offers further options for small start-up retailers at a time when shop vacancies across the town are at an all time low.”
The district council is also engaged in a further project to restore the historic Corn Exchange, linking it through to Money’s Yard and Bristol Arcade.
Navigation Yard was a waterway transport hub at the heart of Sleaford’s rapid growth 200 years ago at the head of the River Slea Navigation.
Navigation Yard was founded in the 1830s as a trading base to support the adjacent navigable waterway which linked the town to the wider world via the River Witham and expanding canal network – transporting bulky goods, seeds and grain and developing the town’s economic importance.
Warehousing and a weighing house were developed which, after the abandonment of the navigation in 1878 – 20 years after the arrival of the railway – all transferred to seed merchants Hubbard and Phillips who for years were major employers and an economic powerhouse to the town.
Navigation House and the warehouse were extensively refurbished in 2002 in a project led by the council and function to this day as the National Centre for Craft and Design and a visitor attraction.