A £315,000 grant scheme is helping to restore the historic character of some of Sleaford’s town centre shop fronts and businesses.
In 2014, Historic England registered the Sleaford Conservation Area as being ‘At Risk’. The Sleaford Partnership Scheme in Conservation Areas (PSiCA) was launched as a joint venture between Historic England, North Kesteven District Council and Sleaford Town Council, aiming to enhance the frontages of as many historic properties as possible along the main commercial streets and tackle their deterioration.
The deadline for the completion of works is in the next few weeks and will have seen a total of 16 historic buildings enjoy a facelift under the Historic Shop front Grant Scheme to bring back their distinctive character and identity, adversely affected by previous modern developments.
Grants were available to fund up to 80 per cent of the costs to help kickstart landlord reinstatement of architectural features such as traditional shop fronts, and for 60 per cent of the costs for repairs and essential maintenance including to windows, roofs and rainwater goods, up to a limit of £25,000. The total budget allocated to the scheme was £315, 000.
First to see the fruits of the scheme were buildings looking onto the Market Place, with J Hodgson and Sons renovating the stone carriage archway and reinstating shop fronts at Number 17 Market Place to resemble those in the late 1800s seen in photos after 20 years of dereliction, which will eventually see the land to the rear opened up and developed for the cinema and Heart of Sleaford project. The original shop front had been hacked away for a plain new front in the 1960s to become Smeeton’s furniture shop and later the Co-op Homemaker store.
Robert Hodgson added: “We’re extremely grateful to NKDC and Historic England for considering the works as part of their shop front improvement scheme as without their help and input it would not have been possible to reinstate a shop front of the original design and appearance.”
The premises including the Market Square cafe, Bellissimo Boutique and Lorraine’s Childrenswear also saw the upstairs mock Tudor frontage renovated and stylish canopies fitted.
Ken Hanslip from Bellissimo Boutique was all for the scheme. He said: “The canopies make a lot of difference - in the summer it shades us and in the winter it shelters people from the rain and the whole look of the building is so much nicer.
“If people come into town and see it rundown and unkempt they will not want to stop and shop. If they see we are making an effort they may want to spend their money here.
“The contractors worked around us and the quality has been really good.”
He said the opening up of the Heart of Sleaford scheme would benefit the Market Place even more, with increased footfall and pedestrian access.
Peta Wilkinson and her husband Matthew run The Little Time House in Sleaford and own the 200-year-old nearby premises occupied by I and T Hair Studio. Mrs Wilkinson said the shop front scheme is a great positive and has made the formerly modernised shop front more attractive for the tenant and customers.
She said it is helping to generate an attractive and distinctive, heritage feel to the town: “It was looking very dated and now is 100 per cent better.”
Mrs Wilkinson said they had got on board after liaising with the local councils as the rear of their property backs onto the heart of Sleaford scheme and she praised their foresight, adding that a similar scheme has been running in Grantham too.
A further scheme is now underway on the four premises at 10-16 Northgate, all owned by Duncan and Toplis. The work is designed to positively enhance the appearance of all four buildings and the Conservation Area.
Simon Sydall from the accountancy firm said they were approached by architects leading the project with a view to restoring some of the Victorian features of the buildings seen in old photos.
He was impressed by the council’s vision and said: “We knew one of the shop fronts needed replacement and we were interested in restoring the other buildings with grant support which is always attractive. Working through plans over the last two years they were eventually approved and Mr Sydall, who is also on the town’s regeneration board and NKDC’s audit committee, said: “I am personally quite excited to be involved with it and have the opportunity to improve that part of Sleaford. It is going to make a very nice northern entrance to the heart of Sleaford scheme.”
He saw Sleaford as vibrant, alive and “going places”, with his wife also owning a business in town. “It’s fantastic that Sleaford town centre is being regenerated. It can only be a good thing for visitors and residents. If Sleaford had out of town shopping centres it would have been killed off.”
Emma Sinclair of WB Willson’s newsagents in Northgate said their building is Grade II listed dating back to the 1700s and they wanted to get on board with the scheme after hearing about it a couple of years ago and felt it was a good idea to take up the grant to do renovations rather than have to foot all the costs at a later date if the design guidelines became compulsory.
Emma said: “I am very interested in the history of Sleaford and can trace my family back here to 1751.
“Our shop front was just looking sad - a typical 1960s and ‘70s modernisation, but you look above and see the original features.”
With help from an architect and the council they came up with plans to revert the look back to the 1920s when it was occupied by Hoyes saddlery.
Emma said: “We are due to complete work at the end of January. The upstairs sash windows and lead work on the guttering has been done, the stonework will be lime washed and flat rendered downstairs because it isn’t up to being exposed.”
Her business still bears the name of the first newsagent who moved in afterwards, Mr WB Willson, who was born in 1893.
She said it has attracted interest from customers including one who worked for Mr Willson in the 1950s. She felt the finished design will create more window space and a nicer environment for visitors.