Thursday, 1 December 2011

the way the Market Place once looked - and could do again

Building grants need some sort of management

Gradually a sea of grey is emerging from the building site otherwise known as Boston Market Place, which makes it possible to see just what vast a space will emerge when the project is completed in March next year. We just hope that in due course it will not be defaced by double yellow line here, there and everywhere.
As from today an important complement to the renovation begins - a £650,000 scheme to help with the cost of restoration and repair to buildings in the area.
Most of the eligible buildings are either listed or “sensitive,” and Boston Borough Council says the availability of grants to renovate them and restore missing features, will be a huge benefit to the revitalisation of the area.
Owners of eligible properties need to be quick because the cash will be allocated on a first come-first served basis - and two levels of grant are available … a straight 50% of eligible costs for repairs and 90% for reinstatements.
Details of the scheme and advice on how to apply are available at the Guildhall from 4pm to 6pm today – and owners and tenants of eligible properties have also been invited to the official launch of the scheme at 6.30pm.
Investment will be made by English Heritage over five years, with matched funding from Boston Borough Council – and English Heritage has confirmed £120,000 for the first year of the scheme, which will initially target properties in the Market Place and Wormgate (at last!!) So with the matched funding, almost a quarter of a million is up for grabs.
We hope that a number of things will be taken into account with this scheme – the most important of which is to introduce some sort of broad management of applications.
It’s not enough to say “the money’s here – come and get it.”
Boston’s Market Place – pictured at the top of the page in its prime - is Georgian-ish which means that apart from the style of its architecture, certain colours would have predominated.
To maximise the benefit from the restoration scheme, and create an outstanding image, we think that colour should be considered an important part of any restoration of the buildings,  and people applying for grant aid should be asked to take this point on board.
The other thing is signage – note that the Market Place in its heyday had no signs hanging from buildings – all the information was presented flush to the shop frontage.
We need to see if shops can be persuaded to change their signage to something more sympathetic to the visual environment.
And despite the fact that the money is available on the “first come, first served” basis we hope that, again, some sort of management can ensure that big name chain stores with millions in the bank don’t cash in on improvements that they should be doing anyway at the expense of smaller, local, hard-pressed businesses.
As with the restoration of the Market Place, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity – and it is essential to get it right.
Just to announce a free for all when so much money is available for such important purposes imperils a unique opportunity.
Usually, people have a vision of the future that they wish to follow – but in this case a vision of the past is just as important.

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