Regeneration boost as High Court puts Grimsby shopping precinct back in Freemen's hands

By Grimsby Telegraph | Posted: 9 Mar 2018

FREEMAN Street’s long-awaited regeneration has received a huge boost after the run-down precinct was brought back into town hands.

Grimsby’s Enrolled Freemen, who harbour ambitious plans to transform the prominent stretch of the once-proud street with housing, commerce and cultural assets all mooted, have been granted total ownership of the part-dilapidated site in a High Court ruling.

Plans are now being drawn up to pull down the entire northern block from the former House of Holland store to Freeman Way – including the seven-storey former council offices – while improving the southern block between there and the market. That section remains home to several national tenants, including Boots, the Post Office, Heron and William Hill.

A 15-minute hearing in London brought together months of planning, and could herald an end to vandalism, drink and drug problems that have blighted the boarded-up street-scene, while laying the groundwork for a new era.  It comes as the six 16-storey flats on the East Marsh will soon join Comber Place as rubble in a radical overhaul of the wider area.

LOCATION:The large area from Freeman Street Market, right, with its extensive solar panels, to Kent Street on the left, bordered by Freeman Street and Thesiger Street.  

The Freemen have brought in Cleethorpes architect Mark Hodson, and a workshop is being planned to draw-up a redevelopment scheme for an area bordered by Kent Street, Thesiger Street and Nelson Street. 

Modern eco housing, workshops, offices and shops, as well as improved parking for existing amenities, are all being considered.

Read more: Giant Poundland to open in former Grimsby BHS unit - and it's happening very soon

Chairman of the Freeman, Stephen White, said: “The Freemen have had a historic role in the development of Grimsby from the earliest medieval times. The successful European Regional Development Fund bid for the market and business hub shows that we have been able to continue that historic role today. 

“We have worked closely with North East Lincolnshire Council and Shoreline Housing Partnership on the revitalisation of the Freeman Street area.  The opportunity came up to bring the former Freeman Street Shopping Centre back into the Freemen’s ownership and we have taken a bold decision to rescue and redevelop the site to stop it becoming a blight on the area. 

“We will be working with partners to manage and redevelop the site in the coming days and weeks.”

Read more: Hodson’s high hopes for Hull heroes’ village

Funding options will also be looked at, building on the success with the market, with the “appetite for housing” and Homes England flagged up, with green credentials at the fore. 

Having governed it from pasture land to a commercial hub in fishing’s heyday, the Freemen released the land to Second Covent Garden Property Company Ltd in 1969, for a period of 125 years, for the precinct to be built. It was subsequently sold on, with the freehold then bought by then-owner Agra in 1998, on the basis the company would redevelop. The deal included a clause that it could be bought back if development never came to. It didn’t and when Agra plunged into administration and was then liquidated, the property was held by the Crown.

Clerk to the Freemen, Jonathan Goolden, a solicitor at Wilkin Chapman, proved the case, with the historic and ongoing interest a key point – illustrated by the break clause. Having also received letters of support from North East Lincolnshire’s two MPs, Melanie Onn (Grimsby) and Martin Vickers (Cleethorpes), a vesting order giving total ownership, was quickly granted. It will become a formality on March 25. 

Read more: Boost for £36m town deal as ministers commit to exploring Grimsby pilot

Looking forward to a workshop to be held next month to bring stakeholders together, Mr Hodson said: “So many times we have been here before, but now with this we have a clear-cut opportunity. The problem before has been that there hasn’t been a clear run at the site and potential to create something that is properly joined up. 

“This creates a blank canvas, and now the visioning starts.

“I am tremendously excited to have been asked to work with the Freemen to realise the potential. The site is almost empty and an eyesore, which drags down the whole area around it. We now have an opportunity to come up with innovative ideas to redevelop the site, which reflect a whole range of possible uses.

“It is an exercise for people invested in the site, but it could be housing, health, commerce, retail, arts and culture ... It would be easy to focus on just what is being knocked down, but we want to make sure we get the message out there that we are looking to redevelop the site in the right way.” 

The event will be held on Friday, April 13, with more details to follow. 



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