Practical suggestions made at Co-op meeting

co op meeting

Caistor residents rolled up their sleeves yesterday afternoon (Wednesday, October 14, 2015) and got down to thinking about the future of the Co-op building in the Market Square.

Despite some frustrations over the past week, just under 30 residents sat down at the Town Hall to come up with ideas as to how the premises could be used.

The meeting was chaired by Liz Bates, Chief Executive of Heritage Lincolnshire, who acknowledged at the start of the meeting that there were some difficult issues.

co op meeting

Three teams of residents work on potential ideas

But Heritage Lincolnshire, which has worked on seven other projects during its 24-year history, has helped with other buildings where the issues seemed just as intractable, she added.

Three representatives from Heritage Lincolnshire and two from Hodson Architects were present at the consultation event, which ran from 3pm-5pm.

Many of the attendees admitted they had only booked at the last minute.

The afternoon began with a brief run-through of some of the project’s most “intractable issues” – such as Lincolnshire Co-op’s commercial interests, that one part of the complex is privately owned, that most of the building is listed, that there are difficulties with access and there is no room for extension. Plus nearby parking is limited.

co op meeting

Architect Mark Hodson describes the make up of the old Co-op building

Architect Mark Hodson gave more detail, starting with the history of the building. One of the photographs that accompanied his talk was an image of the Friendly Society Parade, possibly dating back to 1905. Old photographs showed how the Market Place has always been a focal point for Caistor, he said. The historical context of the building was just as important as the physical context, he added.

Mr Hodson said he had visited the site three times. Some parts of it were in “quite good nick,” he said. Some parts were of poor quality. There were five different buildings on separate levels, some were two storey and some were three storey. There were some areas with pitched roofs and some with flat roofs. Some parts had been used for storage. There were three flats, one of which had been used until quite recently.

co op meeting

Pointing out some of the challenging areas, although many parts could be lived in almost immediately

The Co-op has worked to “arrest the deterioration” of the site, the meeting was told.

The attendees then split into three groups which tried to think of commercial, community and residential uses for the site.

In an impressive display of pragmatism, Caistor tried to focus on suggestions that took all of the difficult issues into account.

co op meeting

Lots of ideas

The ideas ranged from a soft play area and community space for young people through to artists’ workshops and small shops.

A museum and archive storage, business hub, live/work units, a cinema and health services such as a dentist and an optician were also suggested.

The meeting was asked for suggestions as to who could apply for funding for renovating the property. A new community benefit society and the Caistor Development Trust were suggested.


Mayor Carol Mackenzie reads out some of the ideas

However, the meeting did not think that Caistor Town Council was a suitable lead applicant. Town Clerk Helen Pitman, who was present, said she felt relieved about that.

The Co-op itself might also be eligible to apply for funding, said Ms Bates.

Another consultation is due to take place on November 4 between 3pm and 7pm at the Arts and Heritage Centre. It is hoped three designs will be put on show at a drop-in session.

After yesterday afternoon’s meeting, Ms Bates praised the attendees for their positive attitude and thanked people for taking the time and trouble to attend.

About a third of the attendees were later seen buying groceries in the Co-op store next door to the Town Hall. The general feeling among them was that the event had gone well.

1 Comment

  1. Richard Wish

    I was delighted to see such a well attended meeting achieve a positive feeling about resolving the Co-Op building issue.

    I hope that the example of Caistor can become a blueprint to fast-track “difficult building” transfers of ownership throughout Lincolnshire.


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