Controversial plans to pedestrianise a Lincolnshire market square have been delayed after scores of residents objected. Councillors voted to defer the decision on the Sleaford marketplace scheme at a meeting on Tuesday, October 7.
Officials at North Kesteven District Council had outlined a £1m plan to replace the central car park with seating areas and planters in a bid to create a vibrant public space. But despite previous optimism, councillors delayed the proposals for a variety of reasons, including provision for businesses and fair access for disabled people.
Councillors said they would also like clarity on how it would reflect, preserve and enhance the square’s heritage, as well as the reassessment of seating and the removal of the toilet. Vocal opponent of the plans Ken Hanslip, who runs Bellissimo Boutique with his wife Wendy, told the committee that despite surviving COVID the pair ‘will not survive this plan, and many other businesses in the marketplace will not survive this’.
He said: “The marketplace is a blank canvas, it’s a multi-use site, used for ceremonials, used for events, used for markets and so on and the market itself is used as a car park. I would have thought that was a total planner’s dream, but then what do I know?”
Cllr Alison Snookes also took a stand against the scheme, saying it would have a ‘long-term negative, if not fatal impact’ on the marketplace. Darren Turner, speaking on behalf of the applicant, said the plans would build upon a long-term aspiration to reinstate the marketplace.
He said they would ‘create a suitable and hardwearing’ space for the public to use all year round, with ‘easy and safe’ movement. He added the marketplace would become more ‘pedestrian-focused’ and having ‘fewer polluting vehicles,’ meaning lorries and cars, would ‘enhance’ its character.
Prior to the meeting, more than 100 objections were lodged against the scheme. Residents and business owners alike feared the scheme would ‘kill’ trade in the town, with shoppers of all abilities relying on the well-positioned car park.
An additional petition opposing the scheme had garnered more than 1,000 signatures. Councillors voted 12 in favour, with one abstention, of deferring the proposals.
Following the meeting, Mr Hanslip said: “The option to send it back for rejigging and improvement is positive. We would certainly like to be part of that, and I would hope the district council takes away the points raised by members and gives us good proper consultation, along with good access for our business to continue.”
Disabled access campaigner Anthony Henson said he wasn’t expecting the decision but was pleased by it. He said: “I was very aware of how much effort people had put into actually understanding the situation for disabled people.
“It’s a great result – we clearly are not going to abandon the fight for it. We really need a good plan for Sleaford, and the opportunity is there to get one.”
Council leader Richard Wright, who previously referred to the marketplace’s current use as a ‘restriction’ on its potential, said he wanted to ‘get it right’. He said: “I’ve listened to the debate and I’ve understood the questions that have been asked.
“What this does is give us that opportunity to look at where those thoughts are, where the concerns are, and make sure that any scheme that comes back actually addresses those concerns and we get it right.
“At the end of the day, this is about doing the right thing for Sleaford and not the wrong thing. We want to make sure we can present a scheme that addresses those concerns.”