In November 2020, members of the Spalding Town Centre Regeneration Steering Group were asked to put forward suggestions for events that would bring more life back into the town centre. This is our initial response.
This is not about enhancing buildings, introducing public art, removing clutter, improving standards of window-dressing or revising car-parking and market stall charges. It is about the use (or misuse) of our central public spaces – here mainly the Market Place and Hall Place – and some suggestions for how they might be used more effectively to the enjoyment and pride of Spalding people and the enjoyment and interest of visitors, thereby increasing footfall and hence the commercial viability of the centre. It is about opportunities.
Although it contains some of our most impressive buildings, many of them listed, it too often seems a rather bare and bleak expanse, somewhere to pass through rather than stay and enjoy. It needs a focus – the Johnson Drinking Fountain perhaps – and the softening of a few more trees. The seating doesn’t help, being in straight lines and back to back; it needs re-arranging in a more friendly layout or layouts. On market days the Red Lion and St.Barnabas Trust should be able to spread their outside tables as an integral part of the market itself, rather than shut them away.
Vastly improved though it became when the present layout replaced the jumble of street furniture and single seat (facing north) that used to occupy it, Hall Place is still not fulfilling its very considerable potential as a social space. The seating circle is at its heart. It is immensely popular, with rarely less than 20 people on the seats on a sunny day. All ages, too. Shoppers sit for a moment or two’s chat and toddlers run about safely for their moment, free from buggy straps or mum’s hand. It is a visual feature that ought to be a camera-clicker and a natural arena for market-day entertainment or exhibitions.
The planting, however, makes little impact and the hanging-basket poles are just gaunt gibbets for eight or nine months of the year. On market days, far from being the social heart of the market, its misuse is utterly depressing. Cars and vans park inside it unquestioned (or even allocated?). Its abuse by some market traders – who seem to regard it as a hindrance or a dumping ground or convenient shelving to be incorporated within their stalls – has been allowed to develop and goes unchallenged. Often nearly half the seating cannot be used.
(The photographs were taken mid-morning, not when the stalls were being set up.)
The seating circle must be regarded as sacrosanct, the showpiece at the heart of this part of the market. To this end there needs to be a rearrangement of the stalls – with some of them concentrically round the outside of the circle and with their attractive displays facing onto it, not their scruffy rears. Further, there should be no vehicle parking within the area, except for those which function as stalls in themselves, such as the fishmonger’s or the locksmith’s.
The flaking brown coating of the planters could be sanded down to leave the silvery weathering of the natural hardwood. And the planting needs to be rethought, above all to make it three- dimensional. Bedding plants at waist height give very little return for time and money expended. This is how it could look.
We have come across other towns which provide one or two official (free) spaces for posters and notices. Although reducing the indiscriminate splatter of fly-posting, such boards inevitably look a bit messy, so they would need very careful siting, combining high passing footfall with relative unobtrusiveness.
In addition to the ‘on-the-stones’ auction already mentioned, there are other possibilities:-
Give the buskers a place within the market. Some are very good.
Hall Place ‘Circle’
Maypole dancing from scratch, anyone can join in, with music ……
Have a mini-ceilidh ……
Exhibitions under a central gazebo:- paintings, photographs, ceramics, stained glass, work of the Civic Society, Local History Society, RSPB, Ramblers, ATC, PEDALS, TRANSPORTED again ……