Heritage key to future of South Kesteven
When it comes to boosting a district’s economic future, you have to make the most of your past.
Such is the philosphy at InvestSK, which has appointed a heritage regeneration officer to raise the profile of heritage across South Kesteven.
Claire Saunders grew up near Kings Lynn and became fascinated by the historic buildings in the area. She was also fascinated by science, leading her to study forensic science at university, and later gaining an MSC for Forensic Conservation (Heritage Science) at the University of Lincoln.
After graduating in 2010, she volunteered at Wisbech Museum in Cambridgeshire whilst searching for a ‘proper job’ which took her to work in agrichemicals product development.
But heritage was Claire’s passion and when InvestSK, South Kesteven District Council’s new economic development arm, advertised its vacancy late last year, Claire was fortunate to take up her role at the start of this year.
What attracted Claire to InvestSK is that heritage is not shunted into a silo, but is seen as a major part of economic development. InvestSK’s staff work closely together at the Maltings as it believes there is ‘overlap’ between heritage, the economy and other sectors.
Steve Bowyer, its strategic lead, says heritage helps foster social cohesion, because heritage helps people know who they are and where they came from. Heritage can also help foster a better quality of life.
He cites how historic buildings in Derby helped regenerate its city centre, which could also happen in Grantham.
Characterful areas appeal to shoppers, and if people live above the shop, that leads to extra trade for nearby businesses, and with more people present, the streets become safe, vandalism and other crime falls, which makes a place even more attractive for investment.
Steve said: “There’s some hard, crunchy economics around it.”
But for Claire, heritage is more than just prettifying an area, it’s also about creating a desire to work and live in a place.
“One of the things we have done is look at ways to ignite community interest in heritage areas here. I hope to raise the profile and get people to realise what is here.”
In the time Claire has been with InvestSK, she has undertaken research and helped create a new website outlining the heritage of the district. It also tells the stories and the significant events of South Kesteven, such as the people who built St Wulfram’s or Stamford.
The plan is now to take these interpretations to the wider community and celebrate the heritage of the district. InvestSK is already working with various Civic Societies, and also plans to work with the National Trust, the Arts Council and others.
The website will promote events and feature volunteer noticeboards to encourage people to help.
Claire also plans to develop a library of historic photos showing the heritage of the district.
InvestSK also plans to develop a database of historic properties that will feature information on how to care for such property.
Steve Bowyer said: “We want to get a local understanding that South Kesteven is keen to use its heritage as a major deal in the growth of the area.”
Claire added: “Heritage: It’s what gives a place identity.”