We asked Spalding's recently appointed Town Centre Improvement Coordinator, Bethany Stinson to provide us with an interview, an abbreviated version of which was published in our October 2020 Newsletter due to space constraints. Here we reproduce the interview in full.
Can you give us a brief outline of your background?
I have lived in Spalding my whole life and know the area like the back of my hand! I am new to Local Government. My previous career has primarily been based around the performing arts. I performed professionally as a dancer after training in teaching and performance and then went on to teach dance across many Primary Schools as part of their PE curriculum. I also have experience as a financial advisor working for a local Spalding bank.
What projects have you been involved in previously that have given you particular satisfaction or that you found particularly exciting?
Many projects as a performer and teacher have brought me great satisfaction. To provide people with a happy, positive and exciting experience is where I receive great job satisfaction.
Did you know Spalding before? If not, what were your first impressions?
I have lived in Spalding my whole life (minus a few years!). We are so lucky to have a beautiful river running through the centre of our town with fabulous walking and cycling trails around it. You can go for a walk through the town and come across all of its history and heritage (Ayscoughfee Hall Museum and Gardens, Chain Bridge Forge, Spalding Gentlemen’s Society). I am fascinated and thankful for the small quirks we are fortunate to hold such as the Red Lion Hotel that housed Jimi Hendrix! Not forgetting the history of our Market Town and Sheep Market. Spalding is full of history and beauty and I am hopeful the improvement plan will enhance these qualities.
What is the title of your new position? And its brief?
My title is “Town Centre Improvement Plan Coordinator” – My role is to support and work closely with colleagues and partner organisations to ensure the effective delivery of the Town Centre Improvement Plan projects. I will be working and engaging directly with businesses, organisations, community groups and individuals to develop and deliver these projects that will transform our town centres for the future.
“Town Centre” is a rather indeterminate phrase, which will mean different things to different people. Can you give a rough idea of the boundary line within which you will be working?
My role does not limit me to specific boundaries, my focus areas are Holbeach and Spalding town centres and as part of the improvement plans there will be focus on creating a safe, clean and vibrant environment to build confidence in our community and to attract more footfall into the centres and whichever parts of the towns that can contribute to this will be considered.
The need to increase footfall is a recurring feature of the Holbeach and Spalding Town Improvement Works Report.
I may just start off by saying in relation to these questions it’s important to note that my role is to support and work with many individuals, businesses and organisations to shape and deliver projects under the improvement plan. The programme of these projects will be the outcome of a collective contribution, therefore, the questions below are merely my own opinions and suggestions that are yet to be discussed in such a setting.
What two improvements might see more residents using the centre to shop and socialise?
I think by enhancing the aesthetic appeal of public spaces within the town is a good start; this can be done firstly through street audits identifying areas for improvement, cleaning, repairs and any installation needs such as street furniture, planters, etc…I also think another great way to induce more footfall is to redefine and establish a strong market offering by engaging with market stall holders regularly, providing regular specialist markets (such as food markets, youth markets, entertainment etc…) as well as improved aesthetics of the market such as new signage, banners and advertisement. We are a Market Town and our market certainly has the potential and capability to increase footfall.
Two improvements that might attract outsiders to visit the town and to return?
In order to attract outsiders to visit and return to our town centre I believe a town centre events programme for the future (Covid-secure) that celebrates our brand and heritage would greatly increase our chances. Such programme would consist of activities, shows, specialist markets and celebrations. As above, I believe a clean, welcoming and vibrant aesthetic would also aid in encouraging the return of such visitors.
What might be done to attract more of the Springfields visitors to include the the town centre in their day’s visit?
Going forwards the council could look at potential talks and partnerships with Springfields to consider ways in which to tie in the town centre with visitors to the outlet.
We think Nick Jones of Transported Art has told you about the Civic Society’s `Market Art Project`. What part do you see the project playing in helping to regenerate the town centre?
Arts trails are a great way of improving the aesthetics of a place and I could see it tying in nicely with some of the proposed themes of the Improvement Plan. I believe public art can certainly play a part in enhancing a space.
Which assets of the town do you think could be strengthened or developed to increase its attractiveness? Short term? Long term?
As mentioned earlier, we are very lucky with the assets we have in our town. Short term I would say “getting the basics right” is a good start, especially since the pandemic: improvements to furniture, planters, empty shop fronts, cleanliness and creating a safe, clean environment will ensure confidence in the people of our town centres. Long term would be looking at ways in which we can enhance our key sites, such as the River Welland and Ayscoughfee.
Anything else you would like to add?
Just to say that I feel very privileged and thankful to be able to play a part in improving our town centres and I look forward to working with our businesses, individuals, organisations and partners to bring the plan to life. I am very passionate about creating a better future for the people, visitors and businesses of South Holland.