Response to the consultation on the redevelopment plans for Lincoln Central Market

Lincoln City Council are currently running a public consultation on their plans for the redevelopment of Lincoln Central Market. If you’re a Lincoln resident, I encourage you to add your feedback and thoughts. The format is an online questionnaire, with questions prompting support of the plans, but does allow space for more general feedback too.

The plans include significant architectural interventions, to add windows into the arched walls along the north and east sides of the market, and a mezzanine floor inside. They would also be replacing the narrow butchers section and public toilets down the south-side of the market with a new extension which would include a first floor area. Architecturally it all feels quite positive to me.

They also want to repurpose the market to make it partially a food hall, with significant space given over to seating to support this. Additionally there are nebulous plans to also redevelop the adjacent City Square, to make this a defacto exterior extension of the market.

This is all part of a wider investment plan for the city, which I think has some real positives, including things like bring more trees to the Sincil Bank area and making it better cycle-connected, and generally improving cycling and pedestrian access in the city centre.

But I’ve also got concerns. The redevelopment work in the city centre around the Cornhill area, Sincil Street, and the new bus station, has been very presentable — Although terribly grey, they really don’t want trees it seems — But it’s also becoming very clear that there is a lot of gentrification happening as a result. Many small and independent businesses have moved out of the area in the process. Notably really affordable shops have gone too; Savers, a general home supplies shop has moved the back side (backwater?) of the Waterside shopping centre, the Post Office is shortly to move nearby there too, and the superbly useful Boyes (great for affordable supplies of home, craft, DIY, and more) has closed entirely, seemingly unable to find suitable new premises in the city.

But it’s the market itself that has really taken the brunt of this. Prior to the start of the redevelopment efforts, it extended into parts of the Cornhill building, connecting it straight through to the Cornhill road (near Waterstones), and there was a large area of market wrapped around the Cornhill building too. This was all removed as part of the redevelopment of that building, and most of the stall holders have not continued, with just some moving into the main Central Market building, and a few others taking up smaller shop units nearby. The Central Market itself has also gradually emptied out, to the extent it is barely half occupied now.

I actually really like the Cornhill building redevelopment itself; it’s grand building that deserved better treatment than it had before. But it has come at great cost to the market. I feel this most dramatically just looking at the fruit and veg offer; their used to be three separate green grocer stalls in the market that sat on the side of the Cornhill. There’s just one left now, a very nice one, but with a much smaller offer than what was previously available.

Looking at this with a cynical eye, you might almost think this was the plan all along; to kill off much of the market until we get to where we are today, with just a handful of stallholders likely to cause minimal impediment to implementing a new vision for the market. Hmm…

The interior rendering of the new scheme rather reinforces this view:

It looks nice n’all; but as a food venue (as is the vision). There’s not an awful lot of actual market left in there is there? Even allowing for the extra space on the mezzanine floor. The new extension on the east side, it seems, would be at least partially given over to general retail units, not really part of the market. There’s also mention of there being a dedicated new area for the butchers at the west end; it’s not clear if this is also a new extension, or just provision within the market hall space.

My other concern from a purely design point of view is that it’s just a bit dull. In my feedback I pointed to the beautiful colourful ceiling of Rotterdam market. Rotterdam is a destination building in itself because of it’s appearance, which makes the overall shopping experience that much more enjoyable. I’d love to see a bit more life and colour in these plans too.

Some of the other issues I have raised in my own submission to the consultation are worries about the impact on current and future stall holders. Will existing stall holder face being forced into the least desirable spots to make way for more premium offers the make the market seem “nice”? Will they have to look forward to increased fees as the market shifts up-market?

Provision also needs to be made to allow existing stall holders to continue trading while the redevelopment work is happening. Be that within the market, or with some sort of temporary provision made in City Square or elsewhere if necessary to empty the building. Has the council planned this in yet? Will existing traders be compensated for potentially having to spend time and money rebuilding their stalls every time they have to move to make way for building work?

I hope provision will also be made to encourage new stall holders, in particular allowing use of the market as a first step towards setting up more substantive retail offers in the city. The market could and should be a place for innovation, alongside the reliable long term stalls.

Naturally I’m also concerned about the environmental impact and opportunities. Any changes to the building should also plan in making it much more energy efficient, and include on-site renewable energy generation (ie solar panels on the roof).

The consultation offers up a number of suggestions for additional services that could be housed within the market. This includes bike storage. I don’t see a need for that in the market itself. But there does need to be much greater provision of places to secure bikes across the city centre. And better routes for cyclists into and through the centre too. I fed that back, even though it’s obviously a wider issue than the market project.

Finally I called for the City Square redevelopment to include trees and permanent planting. The other areas nearby that have been recently repaved are alarming devoid of any greenery; it’s a dead desert of paving that is boring and misses the opportunities trees give to urban spaces for shade and shelter, and life! The council seems reliant on temporary flower displays to bring life to the city; these are not an adequate. A well designed tree-focused environment would make the City Square area very pleasant for outdoor meeting and eating in the summer especially.

So I hope you’ll add you’re voice to the consultation, and make sure the council have plenty of feedback to work on to improve their plans. Obviously I hope you might consider reinforcing some of my own concerns above too.

All images from City of Lincoln Council’s plans for the market.

Artist, environmentalist, vegan, feminist, atheist, nudist, cyclist, chocoholic, trekkie. Interested in issues of sustainability and equality —

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