Whereas I admire the sentiment of writing to the Prime Minister, I would suggest there are several things that Grantham can do to help rejuvenate the High Street.
Last Saturday it took me 27 minutes to drive from the A1 to the Asda roundabout. There wasn’t a specific problem just the weight of traffic and the inability of the current road layout to deal with it.
When I finally did make it to the car park opposite Kwik Fit, it cost £4 to park.
Both of these obstacles keep people away from the town centre and are easily overcome. Implement a traffic priority system for Saturdays and make all of the car parks free over the weekends.
The argument for public transport is a good one however the reality is that people prefer to use their cars. Morrisons car park – free I note – is packed every day indicating that people choose to drive, but object to being charged to park. If you want people to visit the High Street then remove the barriers that keep them away, make the High Street easy to access and make it easy and cost free to park.
The second half of the equation is giving people a reason to visit. As your article last week pointed out, shops are closing at an alarming rate. Recently I looked into leasing one of the shops in the George Centre and the cost is astronomical even for a small unit.
On top of these costs comes the service charge and the cost of utilities. Has anyone approached the owners of the George and established their priorities? There seems to be something of a gap between wanting a thriving town centre and the return the George Centre expects.
Has anyone approached the big out of town stores (Ikea or Costco for example) to see if there is any opportunity for a ring and reserve or a local pick up service, that would provide a reason for people to visit the town centre and is something neither Lincoln or Newark has to offer.
Ideally we would like these businesses in the town centre, which is perhaps unlikely. Nonetheless I wonder if anyone from Grantham has been and told the companies about the benefits and advantages of Grantham. Downtown, an out of town store with ample free parking does not seem to have any trouble attracting visitors. Currys on the A1 also sees the advantages of the good communication links.
If it is office or internet-based businesses that Grantham would like to attract, when was the last time we lobbied BT to have our telephone exchange upgraded to the latest technology?
All businesses require telecommunication services and being 2nd rate will not attract businesses. Is the strategy to wait passively until it is our turn. Newark on the other hand has recently attracted a £5 million data centre investment. If you were a business looking to relocate to the East Midlands and in need of good telecommunications, where would you look first?
Nothing I’ve suggested is extraordinary, so I can only imagine that there must be people somewhere shaking their heads as they read this and suggesting that I don’t understand.
In reply to them I’d make the point that Grantham is not only competing with the towns around it but has to do more if it wishes to win the fight for customers. If we only do what everyone else does then there is no reason for people to change their shopping habits. We have to do more than the next town and we don’t need the Prime Minister to fix a few of the obvious problems that affect our town, just the simple desire to do something ourselves, quickly and efficiently.