A talented town
Businesses in Grantham have found themselves caught up in major town redevelopments for the second time in a year, but they remain philosophical about the disruption and the effects it could have on trade.
The second phase of the town centre improvement project began three weeks ago, resulting in the closure of Wide Westgate for up to thirteen weeks.
It is hoped that the road may be kept open for part of the time but full closure will be necessary for some phases of the work, putting added strain on businesses in that area.
The work follows on from the redesign of the Market Place, which caused major disruption last year.
Lincolnshire County Councillor, Eddy Poll, who is executive member for Economic Development, said the improvements will continue the revitalisation of the town centre by attracting new shoppers, visitors and investors.
“This should mean a valuable boost for local businesses. We’ll be doing everything we can to minimise disruption and hope traders will understand the long-term benefits this refurbishment will bring,” he said.
But Grantham Business Club chairman, Bijal Ladva said the works will not cause as much upheaval as the Market Place scheme and some of the concerns of the business community have been allayed.
“It is not going to be as drastic because it’s a much wider road so they don’t have to close it all off at the same time, which means vehicles can make deliveries,” he said.
“Reducing parking was one of our main concerns but they have kept the same number of parking spaces according to the latest plan, which is good.”
He said the community is divided on the success of the new-look Market Place and many traders feel it is under-utilised, along with the Greyfriars site adjacent to it and Wharf Place in the heart of town.
“The main problem is we have a big empty space that could be used for other things, things to attract people into the town such as pop-up businesses, where you could provide a free stall for a month.
“It was envisaged the area would have a café culture but it hasn’t been pushed far enough and we would like to see more being done.”
Plans are in the pipeline to bring life back into Greyfriars and Wharf Place but they are not the only projects being undertaken to increase footfall into the town centre and attract bigger name retailers.
Grantham’s Station Approach has been identified as one of the key redevelopment sites by the Grantham Growth Point partners, South Kesteven District Council (SKDC) and Lincolnshire County Council.
Plans include an Incubation and Innovation Centre to provide supported office accommodation for new businesses, retail units, a hotel and a pedestrian boulevard connecting the train station to the town centre. It is hoped the scheme will create around 1,000 new jobs and encourage further local investment.
It will also capitalise on the economic opportunities brought by the East Coast Main Line, with its fast train links to London, and is aimed at joining up the station with the town centre.
The plan has also just received major funding from the European Regional Development Fund, for its planned business centre.
Grantham Growth Point Programmes Manager, Simon Wright said there are a number of projects focused on providing new, high quality employment growth, necessary transport infrastructure and improvements to the town’s retail and leisure offerings.
“The Station Approach site forms an important gateway into Grantham, close to the railway station which provides an opportunity for a mixed-use development that will include high quality employment space, together with residential units and associated retail space,” he said.
SKDC’s portfolio holder for economic development, Councillor Frances Cartwright, said: “This new development is vital for the future of Grantham. When this project is complete everyone will be able to see that we are serious in our aspirations to improve the employment prospects in our town.”
But Mr Ladva feels that what Grantham needs is something to get people to venture into the town and spend money.
He said: “If you have 200 people working there you want them to venture a little bit further into town to spend money. You don’t want them to just come here to work and spend their money elsewhere.
“Create more jobs for the people of Grantham and you are onto a winner and to attract the household name retailers to the area, you need an incentive like the Greyfriars or the Wharf Road project. They are the type of developments that would bring the bigger retailers in.”
Plans for Greyfriars include a new multiplex cinema and anchor retail stores, while Wharf Road could become a centre of leisure and entertainment facilities.
On top of all these plans, businesses are still managing to hold their own in Grantham at a time when other towns and cities are not faring so well. This is paying off and one or two of the better-known retailers are moving into the area, which, in turn, has helped to increase footfall.
Mr Ladva puts this down to the fact that Grantham has an abundance of well-established niche traders and clever entrepreneurs, which has helped attract one or two of the better-known retailers to the area, resulting in better footfalls.
“There are some businesses that are thriving, but it tends to be the businesses that have always been busy, the ones that are selling niche goods and whose market base is outside of Grantham,” he said.
“But there is a positive feel around the town and most people are realistic and realise there aren’t going to be any quick fixes.
“There are a lot of clever entrepreneurs in Grantham seeing gaps in the market to expand into. Grantham has always been the underdog compared to Stamford, Lincoln and Bourne and it is very easy to think like an underdog.
“But there is a lot of talent out there and it is beginning to shine through.”
Grantham’s newly appointed Mayor, Councillor Ian Stokes – who represents Greyfriars ward on South Kesteven District Council – hopes the projects will proceed quickly.
“The developments are necessary and long overdue. The new Market Place looks better than it did before and the Station Approach development should have been done years ago.
“We need to improve the area to benefit the town. We are suffering from the national financial situation and it is difficult to get people to come into the area. But if we can attract more small investors, it will attract the bigger retailers in.”
Other schemes designed to help businesses flourish include approval for ten town centre shops to undergo major work to make them more attractive, as part of SKDC’s shopfront improvement scheme.
A masterplan is also being prepared for a South Quadrant Sustainable Urban extension to the town, which will provide 4,000 homes, employment space and a new relief road.
GOOD MOVE FOR VETERINARY PRACTICE
KirksVets moved from Londonthorpe to the Old Barracks on Sandon Road in Grantham in December 2012. Their new premises are modern and bright, enabling a much better range of services than before to be offered to clients and their animals. With three consulting rooms, a large waiting room and retail area, two operating theatres, separate dog, cat and ‘small furries’ wards, digital X-ray, ultrasound room, outside grassed area for exercising patients, grooming room, and separate waiting area and consultation room for day patient admissions/discharges, as well as a bereavement suite, the surgery has exceptional facilities to offer. The six vets are dedicated to delivering a first class and personal service to all their clients, which is recognised by their attainment of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons Practice Standards.
KirksVets felt it was time to leave Londonthorpe after seventeen years to move to a new location where they could offer the level of service their clients deserve, and they are very pleased with their new premises in the historic setting of the Old Barracks.
With their dedication to top quality care, respect for all and building great relationships, isn’t it time you discovered KirksVets?
Newly installed Grantham Mayor, Councillor Ian Stokes had to be ‘dragged’ into his new position by his fellow councillors.
As is usual in the town, the town’s latest Mayor was physically ‘marched’ into his role during a ceremony at South Kesteven District Council’s offices.
It is a tradition at SKDC, which dates back to 1897 when no-one could be found to be Mayor and the chain of office was draped around the statue of Tollemache in St Peter’s Hill, until a volunteer was found.
But promoting Grantham is one of Councillor Stokes’ top priorities during his year in office.
He said: “It’s a great honour to be appointed Mayor particularly in a year such as this. It’s going to be a busy year because of the Queen’s Jubilee and the Olympics. There are so many things happening, so I am able to promote the town in various ways.”
Since his appointment, Councillor Stokes, who has served on SKDC for eight years and who represents Greyfriars ward, has launched Grantham Museum into a new era, lit the town’s Jubilee beacon in Wyndham Park, taken part in the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations and helped to mark the 60th anniversary of the Friends of St Wulfram’s Church in the town. He also met participants in the National Cadet Athletics Championships which took place in Grantham.
“They came from all over the country – from the depths of Cornwall up to the far reaches of Scotland,” he said.
“It is a particularly busy year with all that is happening nationally, but there are lots of things to do in Grantham and I think it is essential that the traditions of the Mayor carry on, to help promote the town.”
Councillor Stokes, who lives in Grantham, is managing director of the town’s Cardinal Accountancy Services Ltd and a director of Cardinal Bookkeeping Services.
TIME TO TRAIN
Plans are in the pipeline to introduce a new apprenticeship scheme to boost Grantham’s workforce.
South Kesteven District Council plans to launch a programme to fund in-house trade apprenticeships in a ‘grow your own’ initiative, which it believes will produce and maintain a motivated and skilled workforce.
A growth bid to fund the scheme has been submitted. This is for £100,000 over four years and there is also the possibility of extra funding from the Skills Funding Agency.
Funding permitting, the first apprenticeships could be on offer for both youth and adult applicants by the autumn.
SKDC portfolio holder for Economic Development and Planning, Councillor Frances Cartwright said: “We want to run sector forums to look at business needs, where the skills gaps lie and how well education providers meet those business needs.
“We must first identify the sectors where skills are in high demand and short supply. We can then help to identify and tailor solutions to tackle those skills gaps, with a focus on training and the creation of apprenticeships.
“Not only will that improve local wage-earning potential but it also shows investors and businesses that we are putting time and money into our future workforce.”
The town’s jobs front has been boosted further by the news that the Grantham Growth Point partners have been awarded a £1.5m grant from the European Regional Development Fund for the creation of a new business centre as part of the Station Approach project.
Lincolnshire County Council executive member for Economic Development, Councillor Eddy Poll said the new business centre will be a key to the improvement plans which will link the railway station with the town centre.
“The new business centre will be at the heart of the improvements and will be complemented by offices, a hotel, some new housing and space for a few shops,” he said.
“Not only will this create around 1,000 jobs, it should also encourage further local investment.”
TREASURES STAY IN TOWN
Months of hard work by a team of volunteers ensured that Grantham’s Museum had a memorable opening day.
The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee weekend was the start of a new era in the history of the Museum, which was the victim of council cuts two years ago.
Newly appointed Grantham Mayor, Councillor Ian Stokes, officially cut the ribbon on 1st June to begin two fun-packed days of celebrations to mark the event.
Response to the museum has been positive with around fifty visitors a day going through its doors and a steady influx of people joining its membership scheme.
The museum, which houses memorabilia from former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, was saved from closure in 2010 by locals, who formed The Grantham Community Heritage Association (GCHA) and launched a rescue campaign.
After nearly two years of hard work, the determined team saved it from disappearing altogether.
GCHA PR and marketing director, Lee Bruce said a number of exhibitions were launched for the museum’s opening, including one celebrating the Queen’s Coronation and Jubilee years.
“It has been a very positive response so far with a number of new people joining the membership scheme. We are averaging about fifty visitors a day,” he said.
“We have had five or six school parties coming to the museum and our shop has already proved successful, selling T-shirts and gifts including Diamond Jubilee memorabilia.”
But Mr Bruce said there is still a massive challenge ahead to find funding to ensure the museum remains open.
“Our first challenge was to get the museum open for the Queen’s Jubilee weekend which we achieved. But our next challenge is to set up funding for the next eighteen months. It costs £2,000 a month to open the museum so we are going to be launching a big fund-raising drive soon. There are some big challenges ahead but we feel positive and optimistic,” he added.
The town’s mayor has selected Grantham Museum as one of his chosen charities for the year.