Grantham will shine at the centre of an ‘economic jewel’ if plans for growth are realised in the next 20 years.
An ambition for the district to create 11,500 more jobs and build 14,000 houses, the majority of which would be in the Grantham area, in the next 20 years have been backed by councillors.
Leader of South Kesteven District Council Bob Adams declared the district ‘open for business’ and the chairman of Grantham Business Club, Darren Joint, has welcomed the ‘aspirational’ plan for Grantham’s future.
Members of the council’s executive gave the Economic Development Strategy its full backing this week.
The strategy outlines the goals for the growth of the district but clearly focuses mostly on Grantham. The report brought before the executive councillors this week points to major investment in the Grantham ‘Southern Gateway’, where the extensive King31 industrial development is to be built alongside the £80 million southern relief road.
It also highlights proposed developments in St Peter’s Hill with a walkway through to the green from the new six-screen cinema, and commercial and housing projects in the Westgate and Market Place areas of the town centre.
SKDC also wants to provide a new high quality business innovation centre in Grantham, but says this will need to be led by the private sector. The aim is to create ‘high value’ jobs and provide 7,000 square metres of office space, supporting about 300 businesses.
Coun Adams said: “I think it’s right we go forward with what we want to do and follow our own ambitions and our objectives. South Kesteven is open for business. Whatever the external world is doing in terms of the referendum and devolution, we are an area for growth and we want to make that message very clear.”
The strategy also aims to increase visitor numbers to the area. It says: “We will build upon the role of the district as a strategic gateway into Lincolnshire and surrounding areas. We believe that there are significant opportunities to improve our tourism offer and experience, particularly regarding Isaac Newton, as a means to encouraging an increasing number of overnight stays within the district.”
Chairman of Grantham Business Club Darren Joint welcomed the ‘aspirational’ strategy.
Mr Joint said: “This is a great opportunity but it has to be managed properly. It is aspirational and that is great for Grantham. I have never subscribed to the ‘doom and gloom’ that some people do. I don’t see why Grantham cannot be as vibrant as, say, Cambridge.”
He added: “I have always supported more manufacturing. It’s important to have a good mix of types of industry. But the council cannot do all this on its own. It has been engaged with the business club and with big business stakeholders to come up with a cohesive plan. There is some detail behind it. There is real meat in the plan.”
The report says: “Whilst supporting economic development initiatives across the whole of the district, there is a clear focus on growth in Grantham. This will help in establishing Grantham as a leading sub-regional centre, taking advantage of development opportunities, creating employment, providing growth in new housing and helping to improve the town centre offer to enable more people to invest, shop, work and relax there.”
The report focuses further on Grantham saying there is a need to rejuvenate the town to attract visitors and shoppers from a wider area. This includes enabling a ‘vibrant’ church with new visitor facilities. Fr Stuart Cradduck, rector of St Wulfram’s Church, recently announced a bid to build a £5 million church hall and education centre.
The report also points to the creation of a Business Improvement District in Grantham. Businesses throughout Grantham will be asked to vote on whether they want a BID later this year.