Finally after a couple of weeks, there has been a response from the portfolio holder, Cllr. Frances Cartwright. Cllr. Cartwright feels that the Grantham Area Action Plan (GAAP), in its current form, is the best long-term strategy for the town. Seemingly backed up by public opinion through a consultation held earlier in the year, Cllr. Cartwright is confident that the GAAP will deliver the investment and regeneration that Grantham so desperately needs.
However, I do not have the same confidence.
This lack of confidence comes from the experience of seeing numerous action plans being drawn up by SKDC, and seeing next to no investment as a result. Even the Audit Commission drew up a report about the economic development strategy of SKDC in July 2009. The report said:
“major improvements planned for Bourne and Grantham town centres over the past ten years have not materialised. There are early signs of progress, but the Council’s track record is not good in areas where it now needs to perform well”
This analysis is key to understanding why there is a lack of confidence in the development of Grantham, and for the long-term plans.
I have called for the council to adopt an employment led strategy, that looks to develop employment space in the town centre. Significant developments in the Greyfriars area of town will attract new investment from small and medium-sized businesses, providing employment in the centre of town, taking advantage of the public transport and pedestrian routes.
When I suggested this in my Journal column, Cllr. Cartwright suggested that I had missed the Station Approach development outlined in GAAP. I have not missed that development, but as with other development options in the GAAP, I fear that it will not attract the investment that the council hopes to see.
The location is edge of town centre, is very difficult to develop the pedestrian flow into the town centre, and does not offer the value to create a decent return for the developers. Also this proposal does not offer the existing town centre any potential improvement in trading conditions. It is vital that we work with existing infrastructure to maximise the impact whilst avoiding reliance on scarce funding sources.
As the town begins to prosper again, the larger projects will become more attractive to investment, therefore delivering the development that is needed to grow Grantham in a sustainable way.
I will make my comments in a formal way through the final consultation of the GAAP in Autumn 2011, and hopefully SKDC will take into account what would be a more sustainable regeneration plan for the town.