Over the Christmas period I had the occasion to visit Grantham, a town that I love and had the absolute pleasure of residing in for many years, but left in the late eighties.
It has always been to me a pleasant and well appointed town with nice people, good quality shops on the High Street, a good Saturday market, a swimming pool and leisure centre, a football ground located on London Road, public houses aplenty, and various engineering firms offering ‘solid employment’. In short it was a good place to live and grow, so can anyone tell me what has happened?
The declining number of major employers can be attributed to the oft quoted ‘global demand’ or apparent lack of it, that we can understand, but what of the town and its trading style?
I suppose the rot set in when one of the four temples to perpetual profit(the supermarkets) was given permission by the council members in situation at that time to go ahead and destroy half the town in the Wharf Road area, this was followed by the other supermarkets grabbing what they could as fast as they could in the guises of the football ground (London Road) and finally the leisure centre.
Recently, Lidl have rebuilt the site they occupied, what used to be key markets site into yet another large supermarket. What is the population of Grantham, has it since my departure entered into the millions?
How many supermarkets does one town the size of Grantham require?
Progress has given Grantham many of the large ‘out of town retail outlets’ but located inside the town’s parameter – again at what cost to the town as a whole?
How can the small trader compete with the buying power of the nationals, they state all too often that their appearance on the high street has no detrimental effect to the small trader. I for one treat that comment with the contempt it deserves.
Imagine, if you would, if these outlets all decided to suddenly depart. What would Grantham have then? Nothing!! A fact that should ring more than warning bells in the ears of those who are responsible for allowing this process to develop.
Traffic flow around, in, and through the town leaves much to be desired, not only to the imagination, but also to a great deal of luck. You only have to observe the junction of Wide Westgate/Dysart Road/Station Road and Wharf Road areas to realise that the planner of that road layout did not understand traffic flow and driver frustration. What I witnessed on my visit was to me nothing short of chaotic and in my mind those who are responsible for this should be held accountable, but alas that will never come to pass.
The High Street is all but dead, which is systematic of all other towns up and down the country that invite the large multi- nationals to trade within their towns without control, that fine establishment which was once the George Hotel is all but an empty shell in every sense of the meaning. Fine shops now replaced with the usual low quality stores selling ‘tat’, one occupying the site of the now departed Marks & Spencer – how times and expectations have changed!
Charity shops along with the growth of eating establishments that tout the usual offerings like burgers, pizza, and the obligatory fries associated with such places abound, just how many pizza and burger selling outlets can a small town like Grantham allow, or indeed need? I fear in this instance that the council has its eye on money in the form of business rates as apposed to the aesthetics of the town.
As I meandered along St Peter’s Hill it looked tired and somewhat shabby, the empty shops being witness to better times, the Christmas lights were in need of attention some of which were strung hap-hazardly across the front of shops in an effort to bring a little Christmas gaiety and spirit, which was visibly noted by its absence.
The Market Place has had the obligatory ‘let’s go trendy’ make over with the ‘art form’ representing exactly what I do not know as I could not fathom it out. It will no doubt have something to do with the great man Sir Isacc Newton. I was left wondering and somewhat puzzled as to what he would think of it all, the ‘cafe culture’ mentality is all well and good in a country that has the weather to support such activities, if that is not the case then it becomes yet another waste of money that could have been better spent elsewhere within the town, such as the Wharf Road area which also looked tired and in need of a great deal of attention.
It is easy to criticise and to pass comments, but Grantham was once a nice, pleasant town with much in its favour and it is sad that the planners and councillors have such shallow ideas about how a town can remain true to its identity and still embrace the future, and the answer is not ever greater numbers of houses and housing estates and multi national shops and supermarkets. Grantham is a living and breathing town but it seems that those in charge, for what ever reason best understood by themselves are doing their absolute best to kill it. And what gives rise for concern is the fact that they will actually succeed.