Tackling town centre issues
The Urban Group was established in January 2003 as one of the three working groups of Stamford Vision, the others being the Business Group and the Marketing Group. These groups, consisting entirely of volunteers, were part of the Stamford Town Partnership, a committee which also included representatives of town, district and county councils, the Chamber of Trade and Commerce, local businesses, and the educational and voluntary sectors. The remit of the working groups was to implement projects in line with the priorities set out in the Vision 2015 document to improve the townscape while respecting the architectural and historic beauty and uniqueness of the town.
The Urban Group, with the aid of funding from the Landfill Tax Credit Scheme via Castle Cement and other sources, imple- mented a wide range of projects from the outset including an adap- tive re-use study to encourage the use of empty premises in the town centre, the acquisition of 44 new litter bins, the resurfacing of Vence Walk, the repainting of 50 lampposts and the resurfacing of Horseshoe Lane with reclaimed York Stone.
The Gateway Project, notably the transformation of Red Lion Square and the Sheep Market, was completed in 2007 and the Urban Group intensified its activities. An important element was the planting of bulbs, shrubs and trees at key sites in the town. These included the bandstand at the Recreation Ground, the Wharf Road verge opposite St Mary’s Medical Centre, Stamford War Memorial, St Mary’s and All Saints’ Church- yards, Gooches Corner, St Leonard’s Priory and the grass verge on West Street extending from the medieval bas- tion. Perhaps the most striking addition was the planting of the oriental plane tree on the Sheep Market. The group also organised the repair of the vandalised sensory gar- den in Water Street. These initiatives were directed by Peter Heyes and were supported by an annual grant from the Town Council and contributions from individual donors.
In 2011 the Urban Group turned its attention to the eastern end of the High Street, a focal point sadly characterised by totally inadequate lighting and inappropriate street furniture. After consultation with local businesses, new seats were installed with, between them, an iroko planter containing a 50 year old olive tree which was watered and cared for by the staff of Wilkinsons. The project was funded by the District Council, the Skells Trust, the Stamford Town Partnership and the newly arrived Marks and Spencer. The County Council arranged for the street lamp to be replaced with- out charge. Two additional High Street projects followed, the rebuilding and replanting of the planter opposite St Michael’s churchyard in 2013 and the renovation of the churchyard itself in 2016. Contributions to the latter were also provided by Ketton Stone, Cummins, the Civic Society and various individuals and companies who sponsored the benches and the refurbishment of the gate.
All of the numerous projects undertaken by the Urban Group since 2003 have required the vision to conceptualise them in the first place, the obtaining of the necessary approvals to proceed, consultation with all those likely to be affected, identification of contractors able and willing to undertake the work involved, securing the funding required, implementation of the work itself, acting as project managers for the larger schemes and, perhaps most difficult of all, attempting to ensure that ongoing maintenance is provided for.
Anno Domini has now caught up with most of the members of the Group and it is hoped that the Civic Society will now assume responsibility for the role of identifying and implementing projects which might further enhance our beautiful town.