Five years on from redevelopment work in Grantham’s Market Place and Westgate, traders continue to raise concerns about parking restrictions they say are killing business. Tracey Davies reports...
Business owners in Westgate and the Market Place have been hit by changes to parking rules brought in five years ago.
Many shopkeepers believe that the strict parking regulations coupled with confusing signage is having a damaging effect on trade, as customers are reluctant to park nearby.
When Mahmut Boztemir opened Pizza Hot six years ago, business was good, but he is now worried that he could now be forced to look for alternative premises, if the parking situation does not dramatically improve soon.
He said: “Our drivers receive parking tickets atleast once a week. I have appealed three times but it costs each time, so I can’t afford to keep appealing every one we get.
“When we first opened six years ago, we had both a delivery and collection service, but for the past five years, we have had no collection service whatsoever with the exception of the odd Friday and Saturday night. Customers just don’t come to collect anymore, as they struggle to find a car parking space nearby.
“I am very worried about the future. It has got to the point, that I will need to relocate to another area in town in order to keep my business going or close all together.”
Paul Sutherland has owned Print Hub for 34 years has also fallen foul of the parking changes.
He said: “I received a ticket when I was unloading my car early one morning. As I wasn’t near my car when the parking warden was there, I received a ticket, but I simply appealed it.
“I think a lot of people find the parking restrictions in this area quite confusing. There are no yellow lines or road markings to warn people that they cannot park and quite often, people don’t see the ‘loading only’ signs. The entire area is very poorly signed. On the other hand, when we did have more spaces, many car owners would simply leave their cars all day and go elsewhere. The parking rules need to be clearer and a little fairer.”
Lewis Checkley owns Notions Antiques Centre alongside his wife Sharon. They moved to the High Street in 2015, after 28 years trading in the Market Place. The parking situation was one of the reasons that they moved, when their lease was up.
Lewis said: “When they changed the market place, we subsequently lost dozens of carparking spaces, which made it very difficult for both traders and customers to find parking. The onset of traffic wardens a year later made it even more difficult to park and put the town on its knees.”
He added: “No one understands what the loading and unloading signs mean. They are very confusing and convey little information. Also, the signs are not maintained at all. They are all bent and cock eyed. It makes Grantham appear very drab and uninviting.”
John Sayer, owns Grantham Appliance Service and has described how the loss of carparking spaces and parking restrictions have had a massive impact on his business.
He said; “Since we lost the spaces, my takings have gone down by 50 percent. I am also working longer hours and taking on more jobs in order to just keep the shop open.
“Customers just don’t come to this part of town anymore as they don’t know where to park and are frightened about getting caught out by the traffic wardens. Even being able to unload outside your own business is a nightmare. I work on my own, so I need to keep an eye on the shop. Once when I was in the middle of unloading, I had to dash in to take a phonecall. By the time that I had returned to finish, I had received a ticket.”
Thomas Simmonds has owned Simmonds Music on Westgate for the past 10 years. He says that his business has been hit hard since the changes.
He said: “The problems really started when they did up the market place. In a bid to make the area look ‘pretty,’ they didn’t include any road markings and all the parking signs are unclear.
“A year later, the traffic wardens arrived and they have been a disaster for the town. Yes, there was a few people that flouted the parking rules before but the majority of the Grantham public didn’t.
“I have been in cahoots with Coun Richard Davies for as long as I can remember about putting in decent markings and the clear signage, so people don’t park illegally by accident.
“I am not getting anywhere near as many customers as I had before as people have been put off parking in the area.
“No one seems to be exempt. Many parents who drop their children off at our shop for music lessons have also been hit with parking tickets. It is very frustrating for everyone.
“The past five years has seen a year on year decline in footfall by atleast 70 per cent. It has seriously made me think about whether it is worth having a shop in the centre of town anymore. Keeping it open is becoming more and more unsustainable.
“I would love to be an advocate for free parking for atleast anywhere in town. They do it in other towns, for example Bourne, so why not here?”
Sales assistant Peter Coppin, who also works at Simmonds Music, added: “A few businesses have started to reserve loading bays with cones etc if they are expecting a delivery, but this only causes difficulties for other businesses, who are also expecting deliveries.”
Simmonds Music manager Charlotte High also said: “A lot of our customers are from further afield. They often phone beforehand to ask how close they can park and we have to say either Morrisons or Asda, but this is not exactly easy for those who have bought large items like a piano.”
AgeUK assistant manager Georgina Thorpe has said how she has seen a dramatic decline in the amount of donations in the last five years.
She said: “We are simply not getting the donations that we used to as people are more wary about parking in this area. Many people phone to ask whether we do collections instead, as they can’t get parked close enough.
“We once had a customer, who couldn’t get parked outside the shop to hand over her donations, so parked nearby. By the time that she had returned to her car just a few minutes later, she had already received a parking ticket.”
Georgina added: “The nearest loading bay to us is quite a distance down the road. If there isn’t any space outside the shop, it means that our delivery drivers have to keep their van doors open and make several trips or risk getting a parking ticket.”
Tina Gee has owned J&P Carpets on Westgate for 34 years alongside her husband Michael. They have received three parking tickets in the last 18 months for unloading directly outside their shop.
She said: “We have a sign written van, so it is obvious that we are unloading either carpets or cleaning machines.
“There is a loading bay down the road, but there are so many businesses around here, that it is never empty. Members of the general public often park in it aswell as the signage is so confusing, so they are unaware. Many customers used to collect carpet samples, but they don’t come anymore as they can’t get parked right outside, therefore we have to deliver them.
“A lot of our delivery drivers are not from around here and dread coming into Grantham, as it is so much hassle. I think a bit more common sense should be given to us as retailers.”
David and Joanna Eggleston, who run Tuffies Discount Store in Westgate, have struggled for years with the parking restrictions.
David said: “We have to unload 12 to 15 very heavy pallets every week, but the nearest place that we are allowed to park is 50 yards down the road and carry the pallets up. That’s a massive health and safety issue. Many of the businesses around here met with Richard Davies last October and he promised us that double yellow lines would be added to the roads in the area, but absolutely nothing has happened. Customers are affected too. We often have customers who need twenty pounds worth of bird seed, but they’ve had to go elsewhere, as they couldn’t park close enough to carry it all.”
Joanna added: “It is is no surprise that the public are confused as parking restrictions range from half an hour to two hours’ free parking, despite it being one road. The George Centre is going to be empty before long. As independent retailers, we don’t have support, yet go a few miles down the road to Melton and independent businesses are thriving.”