Horncastle is on course for a bright future

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More than 80 per cent of people have backed plans for a new Horncastle bypass, while 70 per cent would welcome the arrival of a Costa Coffee house in the town.

That is the result of a survey carried out by the News which spoke to 50 residents and visitors in Horncastle during the last week.

Of the 50 people questioned, 41 backed a bypass which could be part of a Coastal Highway - an upgrade of the A158 linking Lincoln with Skegness.

Thirty six people said they would welcome a Costa Coffee outlet, with the retail giants currently in the process of applying for permission to convert the premises of Achurch and Son in the Market Place.

The figures come as the owner of one of the latest additions to the town’s High Street says launching her new business was ‘one of the best things she has ever done.’

Sharon Chambers opened ‘Solesistas’ three months ago and believes her business - and the town in general - is on course for a positive future.

Mrs Chambers told the News: “Too many people have been knocking Horncastle recently, but I believe it is a fantastic place.

“Opening a new business is always something of a gamble but it is one of the best things I have ever done.

“I’ve had a really positive reaction - and great support from the other business owners in the town.

“I honestly think Horncastle has a lot to be positive about.”

Regarding a bypass, Mrs Chambers said any project was a long way off.

She added: “We do need to look at getting more people who drive along the A158 actually stopping off in Horncastle, and realising what the town has to offer.

“I can understand why owners of some of the cafes and coffee houses are concerned if Costa does open, but it would bring more people into the town which is good news for everyone.”

Mrs Chambers, who has lived in Horncastle for 10 years, described her shop as an ‘eclectic mix of retro clothing and shoes’

She added: “It is for people who want to stand out from the crowd - people who want something different.

“We’ve had great feedback and people tell me the shop wouldn’t look out of place in Brighton. That’s brilliant!

“We’ve got people coming from as far away as Derby. They really like what they see and they really like Horncastle.

“They think it’s a beautiful, quirky town with a lot of great independent shops.

“That’s the message we need to get out. There’s more to Horncastle than antiques.”

Mrs Chambers launched her business with the support of husband Neil and other family members after two of her closest friends died from cancer.

She explained: “It was a couple of years ago and losing them inspired me to do something positive with my life.

“I didn’t want to look back in 10 years’ time and think; ‘I wish I’d done that.’”

She trades on a Thursday, Friday and Saturday and is one of the few businesses to open on a Sunday but plans to increase her opening hours, once the main tourist season arrives.

She believes many people aren’t aware of the range of businesses the town has to offer.

Mrs Chambers added: “Within a few hundred yards of me, there’s a florist, an art gallery, a book shop, a fashion shop...all independently owned and all doing a fantastic job.

“It (business) isn’t easy at and we need everyone to support us.

“The shop owners have some really good ideas about bringing more people into the town and I’d support anything that helps.”

There are, of course, conflicting views on the impact a bypass and a Costa would have on Horncastle.

Some people argue a bypass would take passing traffic even further away from the town centre.

However, others point out a bypass could bring more housing and industry - and more investment - to boost the town and its often Victorian-style infrastructure.

There are concerns a Costa could threaten existing coffee houses and cafes, although many owners told the News they were ready for the challenge.

Many people questioned in the News survey said they hoped other major retailers might be attracted to Horncastle.

Aldi or a Lidl were top of the many suggestions - along with McDonalds, Burger King and KFC.

Meanwhile, the town’s county councillor Bill Aron has thrown his weight behind plans to attract more people to Horncastle.

He said: “With regard to Costa, I am pleased that our existing coffee shops and cafe owners feel they have unique selling points with their excellent service and good food that it would not adversely affect them.

“I have been advocating for quite some time that Horncastle needs to attract more of the passing motorists to pull into the town centre.

“We could help with brown Tourist Information signs encouraging visitors instead of letting them drive past without stopping. We need to increase the visitor footfall. I feel we should also be working even more closely with the History & Heritage Society promoting our Roman past, our links with Sir Joseph Banks and the world renowned Horse Fairs.”