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'We need to make the most of Hall Place in Spalding'

In recent weeks we’ve put the spotlight on a number of ideas to improve Spalding - and a recent Lincolnshire Free Press featured criticism of the Hall Place planters and benches from businesses. Long-standing resident John Charlesworth, of Spalding and District Civic Society, believes this is misplaced. Here he outlines his vision for how to make that area a cherished feature of the town...

It’s not the planters and seating circle that are a problem in Hall Place. It’s the past and present failure to recognise the unique asset the feature is and to make the most of it. It has been undervalued and its potential ignored for a long time.

How? Might the following be given a try?

John Charlesworth's vision of what Hall Place could look like.
John Charlesworth's vision of what Hall Place could look like.

l Maintenance. The feature belongs to Lincolnshire County Council and needs some ‘active maintenance’. For months now wood has been rotting, a seat slat missing and the inappropriate garden-shed surface treatment flaking and powdering off.

l Planting. Bedding plants in raised planters have little impact, especially from a distance. A vertical rethink? Central plants reaching upwards, edge plants cascading down. Potentially a floral show-stopper.

l Market stall layout. Stalls backed up against the circle only invite traders to dump boxes and paraphernalia on the seats and even commandeer them as part of their stalls, sometimes reducing seating capacity by as much as a third, never mind the general air of slovenliness it creates.

Hall Place as it is now
Hall Place as it is now

A revised layout? Arrange the nearest stalls to face onto the circle concentrically, so the enhanced circle becomes the clear focus of this part of the market? Instead of the higgledy-piggledy jumble it’s been for so long.

As an added bonus, the traders’ goods would catch the eye (and therefore purse) of the seated shoppers or visitors.

l Unique social space. Even in its present neglected state, the circle is popular, well-used by people of all ages, rarely less than 15-20 even on a dull day. A prime social space right at the heart of our market? This is unique. No other market in the area has this sort of feature at its heart. Yet we have not begun to make the best use of it

l And it is of course a ready-made arena for entertainment, as could be seen during the splendid Pumpkin Festival.

l Anti-social behaviour? Most public spaces will have anti-social incidents from time to time, though I have never come across one in Hall Place myself. Clearly I’ve been fortunate. The bad behaviour of a few “undesirables” surely calls for more regular policing and monitoring of the CCTV, not for the dismantling or dispersing of the centre’s prime social space – to everyone’s loss.

What I have come across is its popularity. A place within the market where shoppers can sit for a moment or two’s chat and toddlers can run about safely, chasing the pigeons, free from buggy straps or mum’s hand or speeding cyclists.

Does anyone remember the barren, inhospitable, unsociable, meaningless space it was before the seating and planters arrived?

This piece is offered partly in response to recent criticism of the Hall Place feature, but mainly as a suggestion for its enhancement and the regeneration of part of the town centre. It could make quite a difference, but would be relatively cheap and could be carried out quickly.

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