GROWTH is the key to securing the future of Grantham and its hospital MP Nick Boles told an audience on Friday evening.
Speaking at a question and answer session organised by Grantham and Stamford Conservative Association, Mr Boles told the audience that building new houses and office space are the crucial elements of helping the town’s economy recover, maintaining crucial assets like the hospital and securing new projects like the east-west bypass.
He said: “I do have a pretty clear idea about what Grantham needs to do to revive the town centre.
“It needs to build the new houses that are proposed at Poplar Farm and the south east quadrant.
“We have expectations about what Grantham deserves and unfortunately we can no longer support, say, a hospital or the shops we want because of the size of town Grantham has always been. We need to have a bigger captive market. we need to build these houses and pull in another 15,000 people.
“We need to build some offices close to the station in the right format for modern businesses because Grantham is fantastically well-placed.
“The third element is to review the retail space in the town centre. Grantham has too many streets with tiny shops and what is needed is a bigger format.”
Mr Boles told the audience Grantham could attract visitors to the town and make money by doing more to promote it as the birthplace of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
He said: “Whatever you thought of Margaret Thatcher, you have to admit she is a great historical figure.
“As a matter of economics it’s lunacy that this town makes nothing of her apart from one little blue plaque.”
Questions from the audience covered a wide range of topics dealing with local and national issues.
The threat to the future of Grantham Hospital caused by financial problems at United Lincolnshire hospitals NHS Trust were a major theme of the evening.
Mr Boles said: “If there is one bit of service we need to maintain it is the hospital. “That doesn’t mean it should be frozen in aspic because medicine changes. I believe they were right to take emergency surgery away from Grantham Hospital, but A&E is different. I think it’s essential that we keep that kind of facility in Grantham Hospital.
“We mustn’t cry wolf every time the hospital trust tries to save money. Nothing would endanger our A&E more than not fixing the deficit, so I’m prepared to say them ‘Do whatever you have to do’.”
Mr Boles was also asked for his views on the future of local government and he cutbacks councils are being asked to make.
He said: “The primary purpose of councils is to serve the community, and what I will be focussing on is whether they are doing everything they can to maintain the services they provide rather than maintain their own structures.”
Mr Boles recenly published a book called Which Way’s Up, which looked at a number of issues facing the coalition government.
In it, he advocated scrapping district councils and putting in their place town councils to work along side county councils.
Discussing the idea of adding a town council to Grantham’s existing county and district council structure he said: “I don’t think there’s any way we could justify another expensive layer of administration. What I think would be hard to justify to the people of Grantham is paying for a town council, a district council and a county council.
“I would argue that a strong town council and strong county council would be better.”
l Is growth the answer for Grantham? Does the town need to keep its hospital regardless of future growth? Tell us what you think: firstname.lastname@example.org