New project aiming to give Horncastle town centre a shot-in-arm

Sign of the times? One of several empty shops on the High Street.
Sign of the times? One of several empty shops on the High Street.

Councillors in Horncastle have welcomed a new initiative which is designed to boost East Lindsey’s struggling market towns.

There is growing concern about the number of empty retail premises in Horncastle and other towns and villages throughout the district.

East Lindsey District Council has teamed up with various experts to deliver a series of ‘Vital and Viable’ workshops.

The aim is to ‘protect, promote and preserve the district’s market towns by keeping them thriving, clean centres which are attractive places to live, work and visit.’

A report and action plan will be created for each town.

Horncastle’s first workshop was ‘fully booked’ with residents and business owners attending, alongside town councillors Brian Burbidge and Dominic Hinkins.

Speaking at last week’s town council meeting, Coun Burbidge said the workshop produced ‘a lot of really good ideas’.

However, he added: “Some of them (ideas) were very futuristic. I just wonder how applicable they are to Horncastle.

“Every single one needed the town to take ownership and that is going to be one of the biggest hurdles.

“It was an excellent presentation and it was great to see so many businesses there.”

Coun Hinkins said he thought a lot of the ideas were ‘quite reasonable’ – including reducing parking charges and longer opening hours.

He indicated it was clear all other towns and parishes in East Lindsey has similar problems in a challenging economic climate.

Several businesses have closed in Horncastle recently for a variety of reasons.

Coun Angela Birchall said the state of some of the shops was ‘not a great advert’ for Horncastle.

She added: “We have far too many empty shops.

“When they are empty and looked after is one thing but when they aren’t looked after they soon become very scruffy and aren’t a good advert for the town.”

Coun Birchall suggested that as a short-term measure, some shops could be ‘offered’ to local artists so they could display their work.

She said the idea had successfully been implemented in other places.

Coun Birchall said: “Could they (artists) be encouraged to apply?

“I know it’s all got to be done properly and legally but it could help. All these empty shops are an issue.”

Coun Hinkins confirmed Coun Birchall’s suggestion was among the ideas discussed at the workshop.

Mayor Coun Fiona Martin welcomed the initiative but said there was already a privately owned art gallery in the town.

A report presented at the workshop highlighted problems facing many town centres – including the impact of online shopping, out of town developments and the cost of parking.

In Horncastle, many residents have been calling for more national outlets to open, along the lines of Costa Coffee.

A lack of footfall, though, remains an issue.

A second workshop will be held and Coun Burbidge said that would be ‘ more interesting’ than the first because some of the recommendations from experts – including the Chartered Institute of Place Management – could be ‘progressed’.