A phenomenal £2.4 million has been raised through a community owned venture to restore historic buildings and revitalise a Lincolnshire town centre.
Home to some 2,600 people, Caistor is a market town with Roman heritage on the edge of the Lincolnshire Wolds.
In Market Place, in the centre of the town, a complex of five interlinked listed buildings has been languishing disused and derelict for over a decade.
“We know that small market towns in Lincolnshire that have got enough to offer in town centres do attract visitors,” said local resident Neil Castle.
“But because we’ve had this empty row of buildings in the middle of town for so long, it dragged the rest of the town down with it. After the Lincolnshire Co-op moved out of the building, it pulled the footfall away.”
That’s why Neil, along with a group of other committed locals, has been working hard to raise enough capital to redevelop the site and breathe life back into the heart of Caistor.
In January 2023, their hard work paid off – and they reached their £2.4 million target that will enable the complex to be turned into a home for shops, a café, a community venue and holiday rental homes.
“An old courtyard that used to be there will also be re-stored – and turned into a lovely space for people to sit in and drink tea and coffee,” said Neil.
With a huge target to meet, the team raised funds from numerous different sources, which included the National Lottery Heritage Fund, the Architectural Heritage Fund – and a community share offer. They’d already formed a community benefit society, the Caistor and District Community Trust, with the aim of improving the physical, social and economic infrastructure of the town and its surrounding district.
With a development grant from the Community Shares Booster Fund, the trust was able to prepare an effective share offer. “The grant was critical and paid for expert support to help with the business plan, accounts and marketing,” said Neil. “A good prospectus is key to a successful offer and to get professional help with that was invaluable.”
The share offer raised a total of £160,00, with £95,000 of investment from 200 members and £75,000 matched funding from the Community Shares Booster Fund.
“Community involvement is incredibly important in projects like this. When you talk to other funders and they see the community buy-in, it gives them a huge amount of confidence. I can’t emphasise how important this is as part of a funding model.
“Co-operatives UK’s support and flexibility was fantastic. I can’t speak highly enough of them in helping us do the community part of our funding.”
The project also received a grant from the Community Ownership Fund. “It was a levelling up grant and another crucial part of our funding,” Neil explained. “We were awarded £225,000 for capital and £25,000 for operating costs, which will go towards paying a centre manager.
“We’re a small community trying to boost economic development and a levelling up grant is one of the ways that really helps projects like ours.”
With the first shop premises due to be ready by the end of 2023 – and the entire project completed by Autumn 2024 – the team has already received expressions of interest from 20 businesses.
And the venture is creating a buzz in the town. “There’s even been a song written about 2-4 Market Place, which demonstrates the genuine excitement that there is about the project.
“We feel very proud of what we’ve achieved so far. It’s going to bring life back into the place, with more commerce, more shops and more reasons for people to come into Caistor. It will be so transformational.”