Plans unveiled for former Co-op

About 25 people gathered at the Arts and Heritage Centre last night (Thursday, December 3, 2015) to hear about the latest plans for the former Co-op.

Heritage Lincolnshire and Hodson Architects were hosting the third of three public consultations as part of a feasibility study on the premises in Caistor Market Place.

Lincolnshire Co-operative have paid £15,000 towards the cost of the study, and Caistor Town Council have agreed to make up to £10,000 available towards the cost, if needed.

The Grade II Listed building, parts of which are thought to date back to about 1750, has been empty since the Co-op moved into a purpose-built building off High Street five years ago.

As part of a move to think beyond its history, Liz Bates, Chief Executive of Heritage Lincolnshire, suggested the premises should be referred to by its address – thought to be Numbers 2-4 Market Place.

She identified some aims for the project, which were: that the premises should have mixed use; to reinstate individual buildings (following the roof pattern); to have a shared access into the courtyard from the High Street and Market Place; to retain the historic fabric of the buildings, to have an active frontage to improve the vitality of the area, to reinstate the traditional shop fronts, to use energy efficient measures and to allow flexibility of use.

Mark Hodson explained the processes leading to what he referred to as Option 6.

“The Co-op were fighting against the fabric of the building all the time and it shows,” he said. “In essence, this is why the Co-op moved. Some of it is in pretty poor state, but it has bucketloads of charm.”

He suggested that the left ground floor frontage be retained as a shop – perhaps selling outdoor gear, for example – with a section in the middle through which people could gain access to the courtyard, and a lounge/meeting room on the right ground floor frontage. He also suggested flexible spaces, possibly a mix of offices and artists’ workshops, off two courtyards. He was recommending three flats, five bed and breakfast rooms and four self catering holiday apartments on the upper floors, that three dormer windows are reinstated to the roof at the front and that there should be glazed canopies in the the courtyards.

So far, a business adviser had made encouraging remarks about the cost, thought to be about £1.5 million, and viability. An engineer would be putting together a more detailed schedule.

Ms Bates thanked Hodson Architects for their work on the project. “They have done an incredible amount of work within a very short timescale,” she said.

There had already been an initial consultation with the Heritage Lottery Fund, and fund administrators could see the potential, she said. The possibility of a Heritage Enterprise Grant had been discussed.

A start-up grant of £10,000 towards drawing up a viable appraisal document, needed to progress with funding approval for the Heritage Enterprise Grant, was also a possibility. The start-up grant could help to identify a delivery partner, she said.

Heritage Lincolnshire now hoped to prepare a report for Caistor Town Council and the Lincolnshire Co-operative so they could decide how to more forward, she added.

She confirmed there would be what is known as a “heritage deficit”, which meant a substantial investment would be needed besides any Heritage Lottery funding. Depending on a valuation of the premises, this could be in the region of £600,000.

Besides the Heritage Lottery, there was European funding just coming on stream, she said.

It could be up to four years before the project was completed.

Ms Bates also speculated on another Townscape Heritage Initiative, but that would need West Lindsey District Council’s involvement, she said.

Lincolnshire County Councillor Lewis Strange praised the plans. “I love coming into Caistor. It is a lovely little town,” he said. “But without something like this, all you will get is existing businesses hanging on.”

The audience raised questions about parking, access to the courtyards via Clarke’s Alley, the cellars, long awaited vinyls to the front windows of the premises and whether the whole project should be undertaken by Lincolnshire Co-operative, as the “cash rich” company “was responsible for the buildings”.

A solution to Caistor’s parking problems would not be found within the site, said Mr Hodson.

Ms Bates said she had no involvement with the vinyls, but another person in the audience had heard the vinyls were currently being worked on.

“Going forward, I think if we adopt a ‘you sort it out’ attitude (to the Co-op), I suspect we won’t get anything at all,” added Ms Bates.

Attendees were invited to stay for refreshments after the presentation.


1 Comment

  1. Jonathan Holt

    So it is possible to turn part of the Coop into a retail shop selling outdoor gear? I am pleased to hear that as a lot of business people would never have thought of such a splendid idea without grant funding! On a more serious note I see that Caistor Town Council and the Co-op are to receive the “results” of the study so they can decide what to do – I thought the Town council were keeping out of “deal” or can I foresee Caistor Development partnership LTD which has two Councillors on its board going cap in hand to the people of Caistor via the Town council for a public works Loan (ie the people of Caistor) for the £600,000 (which will eventually become £1,000,000 due to unforeseen work)?


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