Grantham Journal Letter: Big changes needed to save our town centre

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Much has been said and written about the traffic issues that Grantham has to suffer on a daily basis, and to some, the issue may not seem that serious. However, over recent weeks the detrimental effect that the situation is having on the town has been brought sharply into focus with yet more shops closing down and people losing their businesses.

The utter incompetency and complacency of the staff employed within the district and county council, with a responsibility for traffic management through and around the town, is simply staggering.

They are clearly aware of the issues, and yet seem either happy for them to continue, or powerless and unable to address the matter and sort the mess out. Either way, perhaps it’s time for them to move on and find alternative employment?

A number of those on the council regularly bask in the reflective glory of the “pipe dream” that is the Southern Quadrant and east/west bypass, but let’s be realistic, if (and it’s a big if) those things happen at all, they will be many years away, and until then improvements need to be made to the infrastructure we have - and urgently.

We should also remember that another proposed 4,000 homes is likely to bring between 4,000 and 8,000 extra vehicles onto the town’s roads and little, if any thought, appears to have been given to the effect that will have. Although at a recent parish council meeting one district councillor felt that this wouldn’t be a problem as they would introduce a “circular bus route”. (I’m an old cynic and a realist, but even I still get surprised sometimes by the breathtaking stupidity of those in public office).

I’m no expert, but may I throw some suggestions into the pot for discussion?

l Completely re-think the junction of London Road/Springfield Road and Bridge End Road.

I know work is currently being undertaken, however, I think it’s fairly safe to say whatever is being done at the moment won’t go far enough.

l A one-way system in the town centre, with, I would suggest, traffic travelling north only along St Peter’s Hill and the High Street, and south only along Sankt Augustin Way.

There are already effectively two large “roundabouts” at either end of those roads and with some changes to priorities and prohibitions on traffic movements, things could flow a lot better.

Wharf Road should be one-way towards St Peter’s Hill from the direction of Westgate and Harlaxton Road, with a new roundabout put in at the junction of St Peter’s Hill, London Road and St Catherine’s Road.

l Pedestrianise Westgate (all of it) and make parking there for the disabled and taxis only.

Turn off most of the traffic lights (is there anywhere else in the UK with more traffic lights per square mile? )Lights shouldn’t go through a pedestrian phase unless someone presses the button and requests to cross. Most in Grantham appear to give precedence to pedestrians that don’t exist.

The other issue that needs addressing is parking in the town.

Perhaps the private operators of the free car parks throughout the town, specifically Asda, Morrisons and the car park near to Next, could get their act together with the council.

At the moment you are encouraged to stay for a maximum of two hours (except Homebase/Matalan - three hours), which isn’t really enough time to have a wander about the shops, have a bit of lunch, or a coffee.

People are naturally going to use a free option rather than pay, but to encourage shoppers to spend more time and money in the town, change the parking arrangements. Either make it free for longer, or charge a nominal fee in all the car parks all of the time, because at the moment, the operators of the free car parks are effectively saying “we don’t mind you parking here to visit our shops, but we’re not going to give you the time to go anywhere else.” This is selfish, and again is detrimental to the town.

Simply, we need to improve vehicular and pedestrian movement around the town, make it easier to get here and more pleasant to spend time here. If that happens, people, visitors and traders will come and the town will have a chance to recover and grow, rather than the situation we have now, where local people are going elsewhere to do even their basic shopping because getting in and out of Grantham is nothing short of a farce.

You can travel from Grantham to London on the train in around an hour - I wonder if it’s quicker to get to King’s Cross by train than it is to drive across Grantham by car? I might write to Top Gear and suggest a new “challenge” for the boys.

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