Traders call on council for help to secure future of town centre
Traders in Grantham town centre are calling on the district council to help secure their future with the prospect of two designer retail outlets being created to the north and south of the town.
Local businesses fear the designer outlet centres, which have been approved for Downtown to the north and Buckminster between the A1 and Spittlegate Level, could mean the death knell for the town centre.
Led by local businesswoman Jenni Cussell, of John Cussell Jewellers in Westgate, a number of traders have put their names to a letter to South Kesteven District Council demanding assurances they will not be left to compete with hundreds of new shops in the designer villages.
The letter says that local businesses are not against the principles of a designer outlet centre, “but one is enough to guarantee local employment and the prosperity of the town”.
The letter refers to retail expert Claire Bailey who was quoted in the Journal last week saying that the High Street may well see more services than shops established there in the future.
The letter asked the council two questions: “We’d like to know how much effort SKDC/InvestSK are putting into attracting more retailers both national and independent in the town? As there’s going to be free parking at the [designer outlet centre] how about the same or at least the first hour free parking in town?”
The letter has been supported by a number of town centre businesses and Mrs Cussell is hoping for more. Among its supporters are Empire, Helen’s Flowers, The White Robin, The Gift Box, The Boutique, Grantham Health Store, Westgate Gallery, Ela Cafe and Finkins.
The letter goes on to say: “As town centre retailers, we’re trying to ensure the long life of the town centre for future generations. Can two [designer outlet centres] so near to each other with Grantham in the middle really be realistic?”
Mrs Cussell told the Journal that Grantham town centre had “lost its soul”. She said: “I think councils over the years have tried but I don’t think they have their finger on the pulse of how the town needs to flourish. Quite a lot of people I have spoken to would like a forum where we can meet representatives of the council.”
Chad Vinodchadda, of Empire, said people needed to be drawn to the town centre with the promise of free parking for one or two hours. He also said local events, like the regular French market, should be communicated more widely to bring people into town.
Rebecca Bullock, of The White Robin in Westgate, said she is a mother of two young children and the town centre needs facilities to cater for young families, facilities which will be provided by the new designer retail centres.
A spokesman for InvestSK – the district council’s economic development company – told the Journal: “With funding provided by SKDC, InvestSK is making grants available to help businesses grow in town centres across the district and to occupy and breathe new life into vacant units. This new Town Centre Investment Fund – which is open now – is a very practical response to support our high streets and is already proving popular with applicants, particularly in Grantham.
“InvestSK is exploring funding options to back initiatives that increase awareness of the local retail offer and drive additional footfall to South Kesteven’s towns. Importantly too, it is working with landowners and agents to better understand market conditions in the district.
“Looking further ahead, InvestSK is leading a major bid to access funding from a £675m Government initiative designed to diversify the UK’s high streets. Through a transformational and visionary approach, the submission will support the programme’s overall objectives of future proofing our high streets.
“This bid is at an early stage but, if successful, will deliver real change in our town centre.”
The spokesman added that InvestSK is working with the designer village developers “to ensure their shoppers are encouraged to visit Grantham’s town centre and surrounding attractions , increasing the dwell time and economic impact on the wider area”.
“The council has previously used targeted periods of free parking to support local traders. Parking is free on Sundays, Bank Holidays and after 6pm.”