Grantham Business club chairman feels positive about town centre
Malcolm Swinburn became chairman of Grantham Business Club in January.
Having retired and moved to Grantham in 2000, Malcolm, 76, joined the South Lincolnshire Blind Society and is now its chief executive. Malcolm’s wife, Susan, is chief operating officer at the society and joins her husband on the committee of Grantham Business Club as secretary. Malcolm and Susan came to the rescue of the business club when the chairman-elect had to pull out at the last minute. Malcolm tells the Journal his plans for the next year and what his hopes are for the future of business in Grantham.
How did you become chairman of Grantham Business Club?
What prompted me was the panic email informing us that, unfortunately, the chairman-elect was unable to take up the role having taken up an appointment in London. So I spoke to Sue [Hodgson, previous chairman] to find out what the situation was with the club. To her knowledge, she said there was nobody to take up the mantle, the treasurer was stepping down, there was no secretary and so my personal feeling was that if nobody was found to lead the club then it would very quickly fold. I have become very fond of Grantham since I came here and I could not stand by and see that happen. I said to Sue if there were no other nominations then I would step in to ensure there was some continuity.
How do you want to see the business club run while you are chairman?
I do not feel it’s the chairman’s role to dictate what should happen in the business community of Grantham. We will wait and see what the views of the business club committee are. I think one of the things to be discussed is how to involve the businesses in Grantham town centre. We have to ask these businesses what they would like to see happen and how we can involve businesses in the town centre and contribute to making Grantham town centre a more attractive and viable shopping area. I will be having discussions with the chief executive of SKDC about the role of the council in supporting local business and I have arranged a meeting with Peter Isaac of Downtown and it will be our intention to explore how that [designer retail] development can make a difference to the town centre. I am also waiting for a response from Buckminster for the same purpose. I have been invited to the handing over ceremony of the cinema next week so that in itself will be an exciting opportunity for a lot of businesses in the town centre. Hopefully, if the cinema is as successful as everyone hopes, that will bring people into the town centre and they will see what it has to offer.
What have businesses been telling you about the situation in Grantham?
There are those businesses who have contacted me and they have some concerns but I think it’s the role of the business club to listen to these businesses and try to understand in depth what their concerns are and work with them to maximise their business opportunities, and at the same time embrace the retail developments that are going on. If they go ahead we will all have to work closely together and it will put the responsibility on local businesses to make sure they do have an input and make sure they have their say. It’s not up to the business club to
dictate what should happen, it’s about mutual support.
Are you positive about the future of Grantham town centre?
The town has some really diversified outlets so it’s not as if there are no opportunities for people to access quality retail and hospitality services in the town centre. I think there is a lot on offer and having lived in Lincolnshire all my life, Grantham is quite a vibrant community and I have certainly lived in places where people have fared a lot worse than Grantham. You have to live with the times and I think Grantham Business Club will be there to ensure businesses do have the opportunity to express their views and opinions and make Grantham a place where
people want to come and work, shop, enjoy and play. I actually feel that South Kesteven [district council] are being pro-active and positive. If these developments, like Spitalgate Heath, go ahead, together with the plans for the barracks across the road on the A52, that will bring a considerable number of new people into the Grantham area. If you think about possibly 4,000 to 4,500 new homes to be built on those two sites, all these people will need the services of
local businesses. I think it will bring people in from outside because we are ideally placed for transport with the A1 and the East Coast main line and so will attract people who want to commute. I think Grantham has a lot to offer but I must emphasise that the development of Grantham town centre will not be outlined by Grantham Business Club. It will be local business people or new businesses coming into town to take advantage of these developments and the work that SKDC is doing. If you don’t feel optimistic you will automatically fail. If you feel there is nothing you can do then nothing will happen. But if you are positive, then hopefully other people will pick up on that positive feeling throughout Grantham town centre and that will be the catalyst, but Grantham business cannot do it all on its own. I have spoken to a lot of people who feel positive about the future of Grantham but you always get the reverse of that from people who will the doom and gloom and not the opportunities.