Traffic problems in Grantham town centre are so bad they are ‘strangling’ the town, and an urgent solution should be found as the bypass will not entirely solve the problem.
That is the view of a Government panel which visited Grantham in March to give its appraisal of the town and where improvements need to be made.
The Urban Panel, from Historic England, went on a walking tour of the town and later drew up a report which includes a number of recommendations.
Among these are solving the town’s traffic problems, aside from the southern relief road, on which work is due to begin soon.
Historic England’s report states: “From the walking tour it was clear to the panel that traffic is strangling the town. This is not just traffic on the A52, but elsewhere too; the High Street is not a place to linger.”
The report recommends that South Kesteven District Council works urgently with the county council on a ‘traffic masterplan’ to be implemented in phases. The report even suggests some roads in the centre of town could be closed for up to five days a week, leaving them pedestrianised. It says the council should undertake a series of trials to see if this would work.
Stuart Pigram, chairman of Grantham Business Club, said he agreed that traffic in the town centre presented a challenge and a solution was needed. But he added: “People are very quick to moan about something and not come up with an answer or solution. The point is that we need a body to be created which can investigate what can be done and analyse what it is about the traffic that is causing trouble in Grantham. It needs to be done properly.
“From a business point of view we are committed to encouraging people and retailers to come into town and as such with that comes the traffic.”
The report says there needs to be a ‘clear, strong and coherent vision’ for the town. Among its recommendations, it says:
* a town centre masterplan needs to include a more focused area for retail premises with new uses being identified for shops out of the town centre
* plans should be made for more urban housing in the centre of town
* make the train station central to the future of the town with better access from the station to the town centre and local housing
* give more consideration to a ‘Cultural Quarter’ focused on the new cinema and museum and a ‘Minster Quarter’ focused on the church where there should be improved landscaping and better links along the river corridor towards Belton Park.
* SKDC should work together with other partners to make improvements. These should include the county council, Buckminster Estate, Network Rail, Virgin Trains and smaller developers.
Jeff Thompson, who was a district councillor for 44 years, and now chairs the Grantham Area Committee, says he championed rail over road when he was a sitting councillor. He called for a rail stop in his ward at the major Poplar Farm development, but it came to nothing.
Mr Thompson said: “I don’t accept that Grantham is any worse than any other town. That’s not to say we shouldn’t do anything about it. I do accept we have a major problem, but it seems Historic England have not come forward with a possible solution. The relief road will make a difference, but it will not be the panacea that a lot of people think it is.”
A start on the new relief road between the A1 and Somerby Hill is due to start within weeks.
A county council spokesman said: “We are going through the tender process and hope to award a contract shortly, at which point we will release a start date expected to be this month.”
Historic England approached SKDC to make a visit to the town. The district council says it embraced that.
SKDC’s strategic director for development Steve Ingram said: “We will be giving serious consideration to all of the panel’s comments in order to work together to make Grantham a better place. We are all agreed that although much has been done to make the town a better place for residents and investors, there is still much to be done to complete the job.
“However, we are moving in the right direction and figures just released confirm this. The number of Jobseekers claimants in South Kesteven, at just 1,000, is at its lowest level for over a decade. The unemployment rate is 1.1 per cent compared to a peak in January 2010 when it was 3.3 per cent.
“Our development plans for the town, including the Southern Quadrant, will provide even more job opportunities in the construction industry as well as much-needed new homes and business locations in the town.”
You can read the Urban Panel review of Grantham at content.historicengland.org.uk/content/docs/committees-panels/urban-panel-review-paper-grantham-mar15.pdf