Grantham Market Place works ‘killing businesses’ as £4.1 million project labelled ‘waste of money’

Business owners in a Lincolnshire town centre claim they are suffering from the effects of a major set of works which will cause disruption for 22 weeks – and one business fears it will have to close for good as a result. The £4.1 million refurbishment of Grantham‘s Market Place is part of a two-phase project developed by South Kesteven District Council (SKDC) to improve both the Market Place and Station Approach.

Work has begun on phase one, which includes raising the road level in Market Place to create an open event space as a “focal point” for the town. This phase includes 24-hour road closures of Market Place, Narrow Westgate and Conduit Lane for around five months.

Many business owners in the area are furious with the works, which the county council is carrying out on behalf of SKDC. The owners of Tap & Tonic, a cocktail and tapas bar which has been in Grantham for nine years, said the works were started with “scant regard” for the local businesses and it could “sadly spell the end” of their business.

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John Sayer, 62, has owned Grantham Appliance Service on Market Place for 33 years. He used to employ 10 members of staff but says he now works on his own due to rising costs over the past decade. He believes the businesses affected by the works should be entitled to a form of compensation.

He said: “I’ve only had three people in today. As a shop, it’s not worth me being here. Luckily, I do repairs as well which is keeping me going but as a shop I may as well close it.

The work is expected to take 22 weeks to complete
The work is expected to take 22 weeks to complete

“I don’t know why it’s taking so long. We knew nothing about it until [SKDC] told us they were doing it. It’s a massive waste of money. They did all this in 2011 and took away lots of car parking spaces and that’s when all the businesses went down here.

“I’m probably one of the only ones left after that, all the rest are gone. They’ve killed this end of town. Now people won’t come into town because there’s nowhere to park. It’s killing businesses but I’ll keep going.”

Julie Dilks, part owner of Sisu Hair Collective, said: “We’ve only been open since January but we came as an established business so, for us, our clients will still come. We feel great sadness for Tap & Tonic and other shops that are worried about the length of the work.

“We will be slightly affected by the walk-in trade. As a tiny community here, we will do our best to help in any way that we can.”

The owners of Tap & Tonic in Grantham fear they may have to close down because of the works
The owners of Tap & Tonic in Grantham fear they may have to close down because of the works

Grantham resident of 60 years, Twiggy Aspland, said: “I feel for all the business around here. I think it’s putting people off, with all the roadworks as well. As I was walking through town, I was looking at all the empty businesses and thought what a shame.”

A long time resident and regular at the Chequers pub on Market Place, who wished to remain unnamed, added: “The money could be better spent elsewhere. There are so many small businesses that we’ve lost around this town. If you want fast food or a charity shop then this is the place.

“The market itself has gone seriously downhill and gotten smaller and smaller over the years. It used to be superb. I just call it tumbleweed city sometimes. We’ve had some great businesses here and they all seem to be disappearing.”

A spokesperson for SKDC said the council is “doing its best” to monitor the situation. The council’s full statement on the matter reads: “The works that have just started in the Market Place are part of a Future High Streets Fund application which was first mooted by South Kesteven District Council back in 2019. The works are part of a multi-million pound package of measures to attract visitors and shoppers to Grantham town centre to benefit the local economy.

“SKDC is not a Highways Authority and, consequently, we have to rely on the expertise of our colleagues at the County Council in order to get the works done. They are responsible for managing the contract, including the road closures and diversions, on our behalf.

“It is the intention of the County, the District and the contractor, Taylor Woodrow, to proceed with the works in a manner that completes the project in a timely fashion while, at the same time, minimising disruption to businesses and customers. The alterations to the Market Place are designed to make a more pleasant and accessible public open space.

SKDC secured £4.1 million of investment from the Government's Future High Streets Fund to carry out the project
SKDC secured £4.1 million of investment from the Government’s Future High Streets Fund to carry out the project

“It is the largest project of its kind in Grantham for many years and, inevitably, there will be some disruption while the works are being done. The Council is very mindful of the potential impact on footfall in the town centre and we are doing our best to monitor this.

“The works only started three days ago, so it is impossible to say at this point quite what the effect on businesses could be as the works continue. Full pedestrian access is being maintained throughout the project to the area where work is taking place and the work was publicised by local media and on SKDC’s social media channels and website.

“Local councillors in Grantham have, quite understandably, asked if it is possible to offer financial compensation to businesses if they can demonstrate that the ongoing works have had a severe financial impact on their trade.

“Such options are limited but if businesses could approach the Valuation Office Agency for a temporary reduction in their rateable value for the duration of the roadworks. SKDC is also keen to point out that most businesses in the town continue to trade, including the diverse stallholders who attend the weekly market in Westgate on Saturday mornings.

“Parking for shoppers is available at Conduit Lane, Wharf Road and Welham Street.”

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