by RTPI President Sue Manns FRTPI
17 July 2020
On Friday 10 July, as part of a programme of virtual Presidential visits, I was delighted to join an RTPI East Midlands webinar focused on the town of Boston in Lincolnshire. I will be the first to admit that I had never had the pleasure of visiting Boston before, but it is now on my list of top places to see.
The webinar can be viewed on the RTPI’s YouTube channel.
Boston Barrier Project
Superbly chaired by Chris Jesson MRTPI, we heard first from Adam Robinson, Project Director for the Environment Agency’s Boston Barrier Project. Not only will the Boston Barrier scheme bring huge benefits to the town, protecting it from future tidal surges, but the process by which it was developed showcased some of the very best of community engagement.
Image: Joining RTPI President Sue Manns on the webinar were (clockwise from top left) Adam Robinson, Chris Jesson and Mike Gildersleeves
This included involving pilots of three different sized boats in the virtual reality testing of the design (I certainly did not appreciate the enormous size of some of the seagoing vessels that would be navigating this stretch of water), stands at the Christmas market and a Community Hub, where sessions engaged with a local scout group, schools and the wider community. The project was then tested against the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals.
Partnership work to support growth
Mike Gildersleeves MRTPI, Growth Manager at Boston Borough Council, then took over to take us through some examples of partnership work which the Council have been leading on to support growth in the Borough - #TeamBoston. Strong partnership working featured highly in the preparations for the Joint Local Plan which was adopted in March 2019.
Boston Borough has a significant need for affordable housing and has seen significant delivery (30% - 35%) in recent years. Mike then took us through a complex project that had contributed to meeting these targets. The Quadrant was a mixed use development which had as its aim, securing the future of the local football club. The scheme comprised a new 5,000-seater community stadium for Boston United FC with community facilities and 3G pitch, a section of Boston Distributor Road, up to 500 dwellings, a foodstore, commercial uses and a hotel, along with associated works. Part way through, the project hit viability problems, but, with an innovative partnership-working approach, an additional £3.5m funding was secured through the Housing Infrastructure Fund and the development is now well underway.
Mike then touched upon the work of the Boston Town Deal Partnership. The diversity of the Town Board was a key feature and having different views around the table has made a big difference.
Mike concluded by drawing out the importance of partnership working in their success, with a quote to support this which referred to Boston Borough Council as ‘by far the best local authority partner’ (LGA Peer Challenge). Mike’s final message to us all - it is about ‘Art of the Possible’ and ‘collectively raising aspiration through delivery’.
My thanks go to Adam, Mike, Chris and the team who put together this excellent ‘virtual visit’ to Boston. The webinar is a ‘must see’ video and I cannot commend it highly enough.
To see the webinar in full, visit https://youtu.be/A27703Rl_9A