Grantham Journal special report: Parking rules are ‘killing Westgate’
In June the Journal reported how businesses in Westgate and the Market Place were being hit by changes to parking rules.
Despite a petition which gathered over 800 signatures calling for restrictions to be eased, shopkeepers say the damaging effect on trade has continued.
The petition was started by David Eggleston of Tuffies Discount Store, and he has now revealed to the Journal that the sitution has become so bad he is now preparing to shut his Grantham business of 10 years.
“We have started looking at other premises,” he said. “If this doesn’t get sorted then we are going to close, 100 per cent. We have had enough.
“It is killing Westgate.”
The store has seen a dramatic drop in customers. Mr Eggleston’s son Jordan said: “One of our regulars, a lovely lady who used to spend £30 a week in the shop, got a ticket and has now not come back. It is scaring people away.”
Trade is also down at Simmonds Music. Owner Tom Simmonds said: “Footfall is down massively – by 70 per cent on last year.
“Shops all around Westgate are closing – Panini has gone, and both Westgate Crafts and Notion’s Antiques have moved away.” He added: “Westgate should be the jewel in the crown for Grantham in terms of retail. Instead it is becoming a ghost town.”
Asked what he thought the main issues are, Mr Simmonds said: “There are not enough loading bays and customers don’t know where they can park. It’s not clear at all. It’s ludicrous.”
The same word was used by Paul Adams of The Trickling Tap. The problems came to a head at the weekend when they received a parking ticket while unloading in the bay in front of their shop.
A photo of him getting the ticket at 10.46am on Saturday, posted on Twitter, provoked an angry and supportive response from the public.
Mr Adams explained: “We were loading cardboard and plastics for recycling. But the traffic warden came over and said he had been watching us and that we weren’t loading.”
The ticket for £35, could go up to £70 if not paid straight away. Mr Adams told the Journal he would not pay it.
“It is crazy that we can’t even park in the loading bays outside our own shops,” he added. His son Luke who runs the business, also highlighted that earlier this week builders doing work for them and who had a permit clearly displayed on their dashboard, narrowly avoided getting a parking ticket.
“The permission was written on a permit displayed in the windscreen, but the traffic warden tried to claim that we had written that on ourselves,” said Mr Adams.
Many of the business owners spoken to criticised how confusing the parking system is for visitors. Lance Merryweather of Teaspoon Tea Company said: “We’re still getting lots of customers, but sometimes they seem a bit on edge because they’re not sure how long they can leave their cars. They don’t really get long enough to stay.
“It would be better if it was just two hours everywhere. It just seems daft having half an hour, one-hour and two-hour spaces and all these ridiculous signs.”
Furthermore, issues with what has been described as ‘overzealous policing’ do not seem to be isolated to just Westgate and the Market Place. A group of colleagues who all work in social care, say they are repeatedly being hit with parking tickets at nearby Conduit Lane car park.
Care worker Sue Ballam said: “The traffic wardens are issuing tickets for just having a wheel touching the line, and the fines have gone up.
“It’s absolutely ridiculous. They are punishing people who are just trying to get on with their work and who are contributing to the economy.”
Following his meeting with concerned business owners in June, the Journal questioned Coun Richard Davies, executive member for highways and transportation at Lincolnshire County Council, on what was being done.
“We’ve had a couple of meetings with three or four different groups of businesses,” he said. “We’ve now got about seven different ideas on what we should do. They vary from only loading bays to no loading bays, and vary from pedestrianising the area to making the roads wider.
“I’m doing a consultation through a survey to try and get feedback from people who use it, as well as the business owners, to see what works for them.
“One common thread has definitely been making sure that our enforcement officers are enforcing fairly and evenly, and understand the regulations. Obviously things changed in January and there’s been some issues there, so we’ve been giving them some additional training and made sure they’re up to speed with what they can and can’t do.
“A lot of the shopkeepers have said they do need some time when they can load and unload outside of their shops. We have been exploring whether, like in Newark, you can have it so that before and after certain times in the day they can load the vehicles up. Changes are definitely afoot.”
However he could not give any timeframe and in the meantime business owners are frustrated at a lack of response. “Something big is going to happen,” added Mr Eggleston. “Frustration is growing among everyone here. They need to do something now.”
* What do you think about the ongoing parking problems at Westgate, the Market Place, and surrounding area? What changes do you think should be made?
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