Last Friday (January 12) I spent a couple of hours counting the number of shops and eateries whilst walking in Grantham from Sainsbury’s in London Road to Lidl in Watergate and in St Catherine’s Road and Westgate as I was trying to find out why we need more similar premises adjacent to the proposed new cinema complex in St Catherine’s Road. I was shocked by my findings!
In London Road, less than a two minute walk from the new cinema site, there are 14 eateries covering every type of cuisine you could imagine. In St Peter’s Hill there are four more, including Weatherspoons, which is immediately adjacent to the cinema site, and the popular Costa Coffee. I found 17 more eateries in the High Street, Watergate and The George Centre – again all within a very few minutes’ walk of the cinema site – and an incredible 27 (yes, 27!) in Westgate. So, including the two in Guildhall Street and Kings Walk, plus Morrison’s Café, that makes a shocking total of 65 cafes and restaurants very close to the expensive proposed cinema complex!
I also counted shops in the same areas, but not in the Isaac Newton Centre nor in Wharf Road, and found at least 82 shops, 43 hair and beauty/nail/fitness salons and 55 other businesses of various types,10 banks and nine charity shops.
One can only wonder how SKDC can justify spending £5.7 million of local tax payers’ money on this project, plus they have recommended that a further allocation of £1,167,637 of similar monies will be available until at least 2020. No doubt these suggested costs will increase greatly before the doors finally open!
Even if some of the proposed shops and eateries are a success, it will almost certainly be at the expense of some of the existing businesses who will be forced to close. Is SKDC aware that two High Street restaurants both on the corners of Finkin Street, have recently closed, including The Real Burger Company a couple of weeks ago? The Music Shop in Westgate also sadly closed after Christmas and at least two charity shops have closed in the last few months, with another rarely open. This shows what a fine margin local businesses are working on, which can make the difference between success and failure.
Do SKDC really have the right to put current businesses in jeopardy by opening yet more town centre restaurants and shops? One only has to visit the very quiet George “Shopping” Centre, with at least 16 empty units and barely any real shops to envisage what could happen in St Catherine’s Road. I also read last week that one of the four cafes in the George is relocating soon, making a total of 17 empty units.
Maybe it is time for SKDC to rethink their plans. Does Grantham need this cinema complex at all? Does anyone have actual visitor figures for the current cinema as it rarely has more full seats than empty ones in my experience? More shops and eateries seem totally unnecessary, as does more office space as there is plenty of that in The George and elsewhere. Maybe the cinema, if deemed to be vital, could be on the first floor with the SKDC employees’ car park being rebuilt at ground level in order to cope with the lack of parking in the whole of this area of Grantham. On the same morning, I also noted that there were 94 cars with SKDC passes parked in Welham Street, 50 cars with season tickets and 17 cars with no tickets at all, maybe because at least one ticket machine was not working. Food for thought indeed!