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Words: Melanie Burton
Photography: Mick Fox
Featured in the December 2012 issue

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Grantham traders are pulling out all the stops to make a Christmas that will be ‘full of joy.’

The town centre improvements are complete, there are plans to create a landmark business innovation centre in the town and major housing developments are being proposed for Grantham’s southern quadrant, as well as the town’s north-west quadrant.

With new businesses already coming into the town and its reputation as a great place to eat being reinforced with a number of venues picking up awards this year, the signs are already positive.

Grantham Business Club chairman, Bijal Ladva said: “Major names are coming to the area to open shops. Boyes is opening this month – which is good because it is creating more jobs.

The Business Club has launched a shop local scheme to encourage people to support their local traders and fifteen businesses have already signed up to it.

“We are also asking retailers to open for late night shopping again. It has been going for two or three years and it has become so successful that other businesses are doing it too.”

There were two phases to the town centre improvements. Disruption was kept to a minimum during the second phase, with motorists allowed through as much as possible and businesses being kept informed of progress.

The business innovation centre, planned for the west of Grantham railway station, aims to create four storeys of much-needed, high-quality office space for small and medium enterprises, along with conferencing facilities.

It will also act as a hub for business support and will host a programme of events promoting innovative development, business-to-business networking and much more.

South Kesteven District Council has granted planning permission for the new centre which is part of the Grantham Growth project, led by Lincolnshire County Council and SKDC. It aims to create a more prosperous future for the town.

Councillor Eddy Poll, executive member for economic development at Lincolnshire County Council said: “The new business centre will mean new jobs and new investment. It’s an opportunity Grantham can’t afford to miss. Following the recent refurbishment of the market place, this is the next step in creating a more prosperous future for the town.

“The centre is a key element of the Station Approach redevelopment, and our aspirations are for more high quality office based employment, ancillary retail units, a hotel, some new homes, and an attractive pedestrian boulevard connecting the train station to the town centre.”

Plans for a major redevelopment on land to the south of the town has been out for consultation among residents in Grantham, as part of the draft Masterplan for the town.

“It is important to make sure that any future development fits in with the existing area and is sensitive to the existing communities. That’s why we want to hear the views of local people during this important consultation stage,” said Councillor Cartwright.

The proposed development, located between the A52 Somerby Hill and the B1174 Spittlegate Level, would include up to 4,000 new homes, together with employment opportunities, provision of the East/West relief road, schools, open spaces, community and shopping facilities.

Planning permission has also been granted for the first two phases of development on the long-awaited Poplar Farm site in Grantham which, once completed, will include 1,800 homes, community facilities, open spaces, a new linking road and a bridge over the East Coast mainline railway. The site will link the Barrowby Gate and Gonerby Hill Foot estates.

Once completed the link road will form the Pennine Way which will create a direct road link from Gonerby Hill Foot through the development to the Muddle Go Nowhere pub roundabout.

Much work is also being done in the town to help youngsters get into work or progress at their place of work. Grantham College Business Development Centre has reported its busiest summer yet, recruiting apprentices for local small to large businesses, as well as others not so local.

And SKDC is supporting a project run by Grantham College called ‘Upskill Your Future’ which aims to help fifty small and medium-sized businesses and 130 young employees, aged 16 to 19 and keen to progress.

Project manager, Sarah Szulczewski said: “If pupils leave school with poor maths and English, they often struggle with their careers. We can help them improve their basic skills and gain industry-specific NVQ qualifications.”

DESIGNS SEEN ALL OVER THE WORLD
One of Grantham’s largest employers, Vale Garden Houses, is testament to the support of long-established, local businesses.

With a workforce of more than 170, it plays a big part in the lives of Granthamians and is celebrating thirty years in the conservatory business.

Vale’s continued success has seen it move to a larger, purpose-built factory, office and showroom site at Belton Park on Londonthorpe Road, Grantham.

Investment in new manufacturing equipment has enabled Vale to be a market leader, not only in its manufacturing processes but also in the quality of build and design. Its traditional designs are now seen all over the world.

Marketing manager, Jane Hindmarch said: “Vale is a family-run business whose strength lies in its commitment to quality, a passion to provide customers with something that is unique and a team of craftsmen who are able to turn a dream into reality.

“With the advancement of technology in glazing and heating, conservatories can be enjoyed all year round and these light filled rooms provide a unique atmosphere like no other.”

Today, the Vale group comprises four major brands. Its core business is in designing and making bespoke conservatories, orangeries and rooflights.

Such is its success that Vale Garden Houses was selected by The National Trust to design and build a range of conservatories and The National Trust Conservatory Collection is now in its seventh year.

Architectural Bronze Casements is a brand within Vale that has been established for fifteen years. The products produced are bronze casement windows and doors.

Interiors by Vale has recently seen a large expansion programme including the extending of its product portfolio and the creation of new showrooms at the Vale site.

“The showrooms are open for people to gain inspiration for their own home project,” said Jane.

Vale’s success is driven by the family running the business and their vision for the future is to continue building their brand and maintaining the high standards that make them what they are today – a company Grantham should be proud of.

LOCAL HEROES
Honouring Grantham’s famous sons and daughters is one way of attracting more visitors to the area which would, in turn, help to lift the local economy.

Some figures are more well-known than others, such as Sir Isaac Newton – considered by many to be the greatest and most influential scientist who ever lived – and former British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, whose father ran a grocery shop and post office in North Parade, where she was born.

But there is another, interesting character, who is not so well known. Arthur Blissett, who was born on the outskirts of Grantham and lived in Barrowby just outside the town, was part of Scott’s team on his first voyage to the Antarctic.

He has been mentioned in several books about the expedition and in the Royal Geographical Society journals published at the time of the expedition.

Jane Handsley, who hails from Grantham and who discovered the story of Arthur Blissett while researching her family history, is working hard to get Arthur the recognition she believes he deserves.

“I am proud that such a man came from my home town. I believe that there should be some recognition for Arthur in Grantham. It inspires me to know that a young man from Grantham, from such humble beginnings, could achieve so much,” she said.

The team spent three years at the Antarctic living in sub-zero conditions without contact with the outside world, hauling sledges until near starvation.

“Arthur did thirty days’ man-hauling in total. Grantham should be proud of its rich heritage and tell this amazing story of that heroic age, and its Grantham born hero.

“If I were visiting the area, I would be drawn to visit a place with such a rich history.”

Jane has been in touch with Grantham Civic Society to see if a blue plaque could be erected in the town as a tribute to Arthur.

But the Society’s Courtney Finn said blue plaques are confined to famous people who lived in Grantham or who have had a particular connection with the town.

“If he was a Granthamian and we could identify where he lived – as we have done with Isaac Newton and his time at The King’s School – then he could be included in our plans,” he said.

“The Society is looking at the possibility of a memorial to Queen Eleanor of Castile (wife of King Edward I) as Grantham once had a Queen Eleanor Cross marking the second resting place of her funeral cortege on the night of 4th December 1290, en route to Westminster Abbey.”

There are eight plaques in all, one dedicated to Charles Dickens which is located in the town’s George Shopping Centre, and three information signboards with another soon to be erected on St Peter’s Hill.

The Civic Society is also planning one for 2013 to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the train Mallard’s record-breaking run south of Grantham.

LOOK LOCALLY FIRST
Hoppers Jewellers, established in 1926, is Grantham’s fourth generation family jeweller, with a reputation for quality, value, trust and service.

With two shops in the town, one in the High Street and its head office in Watergate, the business has fared better during the economic recession than a lot of other similar retailers up and down the country.
Proprietor Fiona Hopper said:

“It’s been a tough two years but we have worked longer hours and put in the time and effort and it’s paying off.

“We are in a very fortunate position with having two shops catering for two different types of market. We do still find Grantham people are very loyal.”

Hoppers’ High Street shop offers branded fashion jewellery and watches, whereas its Watergate shop caters for the higher end of the market.

“The Watergate shop has done well in the recession. It has been doing a lot of gold buying which encourages people into the shop that have never been in before,” said Fiona.

The town’s George Shopping Centre is also looking forward to a successful Christmas period. It will be ringing out with festive music from now until the week before Christmas as school choirs from all over the area entertain shoppers on different days.

Grantham Youth Theatre will round off the entertainment on 15th December with carol singing for all.

The George Centre has always been committed to encouraging new businesses and in the New Year will be offering incubator units, rent and service charge free, for a six-month trial period for independent businesses, old and new, with a unique retail concept.

Centre manager, Hilary Pearce said: “At the George we understand that start-up costs for new businesses and move costs for an established business can be prohibitive so we have made a number of our vacant units available on an incubator basis.

“We are positive about the future of Grantham and want to make it a place to visit and return to.”

Another Grantham area business expecting a busy Christmas is Belton Garden Centre which has been totally transformed with a massive rebuild.

A new gift shop houses a huge range of gifts to suit every requirement and has an extensive range of Christmas décor available at this time of the year.

Owner, Karen Elkington said: “Christmas is always an exciting time at Belton Garden Centre with the arrival of real Christmas trees, holly wreaths and of course the mistletoe.

“We also have real live reindeer who stay until 24th December. The children love them and many people have never seen a real reindeer before. We are expecting a busy Christmas period as we have so much to offer now after the rebuild. There is something for everyone.”

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