Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Grantham Market Place - 12 weeks from start to finish
Last minute
 may be too
late for many
If there’s one thing that’s worse than taking your harp to a party and nobody asking you to play, it’s when someone decides to hold a party and leaves the invitations so late in the day that there is every likelihood that you will not be able to attend.
Such is the way that the latest invitation to Boston businesses from the “project partners” in the Market Place refurbishment scheme is being perceived after invitations were still arriving yesterday for a “follow up” meeting with businesses in the Assembly Rooms at 6.30pm on Wednesday 2nd November – yes, tomorrow night.
This is to discuss earlier points that have been raised, and also the approach in the run up to the crucial Christmas period – when the County Council has pledged to do everything it can to ease matters for traders and shoppers.
A fervent critic of the way relationships with business are handled in Boston is local business activist Darron Abbott, who has protested to Boston Borough Council’s cabinet town centre supremo, Councillor Derek Richmond, that none of the businesses that he spoke to yesterday morning were aware of the meeting – and nor was the local press.
Nor when we looked at 0530 today had the news appeared on the website of the hopeless Boston Business Improvement District - even though their own staff delivered the invitations.
Mr Abbott demanded that the meeting be called off and re-arranged so that people  had sufficient notice to attend.
But a response from Boston’s Head of Planning and Strategy, Steve Lumb, says  that delivery of the invitations began on Friday - and by Saturday 300 had been “left with businesses.” The rest were being delivered yesterday morning and afternoon.
And in apparent rejection of the suggestion that this was not enough notice, he concluded: “We would hope that businesses with a clear interest will find sufficient time to attend if they wish.”
Perhaps there will be a slice of cake waiting for them when they get there.
Despite the fact that this suggests some level of local involvement in the event, Council Leader Peter Bedford takes Mr Abbott to task for criticising Boston officers "when this is not the case." In an e-mail he says:"The whole thing is being organised  by Lincolnshire County Council..."
That's as may be, but  in all  the information we have seen so far about the scheme,  the borough council is listed as one of the "partners" - alongside Lincolnshire County Council, and the "partners" are supposed to have called the meeting.
Now, however, it appears that Boston Borough Council is claiming "nothing to do with us, guv ..." saying that the County Council arranged through Boston BID for the town rangers to deliver the invitations.
You'll just have to make your own minds up ... but also ask the question why is County Hall running an event in which it is supposed to be a "partner" with Boston - in Boston, and of vital interest to the people of Boston, without apparently deciding to involve us.
As it is, Council Leader Peter Bedford will be unable to attend because of a prior committment and Councillor Richmond - whose presence we thought would have been a must - can only pop in for half-an-hour ... again because of  a pre-arranged meeting.
Meanwhile, the latest progress report on the Market Place scheme  – dated a week ago today - is a mixture of good news and bad news.
First the bad news …
“As with all construction work of this nature we are working with materials that can be affected by adverse weather, and the completion of this section will be vulnerable to such weather. We are still aiming to complete this whole top half of the Market Place and open it up to pedestrians just before Christmas.
“The presence of construction traffic will increase during the above works and so to avoid the risk of potentially serious incidents we would appeal to motorists to follow the alternative car park signs rather than attempt to park in the Market Place.”
Now for the “good” news.
“Between now and Christmas no further footway works are planned (though we will be aiming to complete isolated areas within the new footways ...)
“We are still aiming to complete this whole top half of the Market Place and open it up to pedestrians just before Christmas.”
Followers of this saga will have noted that because of the huge amount of time allocated to the refurbishment project, and the massive disruption for shoppers,  a number of businesses have already been forced to close – whilst others have reported turnover dropping to as low as £30 - £50 a week.
Obviously, had it been possible to reduce the time taken for the project, a lot of pain might have been avoided – but we have always been led to understand that  a big job like this would need an eight-month period between July 2011 and March 2012.
Since then, or course, it got off to a late start, and seems to be proceeding at a snail’s pace.
What a shame we do not live in Grantham – where a similar sized scheme – costing £1.6 million compared with Boston’s £2 million renovation, was officially opened at the weekend.
Work began in June to make Grantham's Market Place pedestrian friendly, with new paving, street furniture and a large sculpture. The whole thing took just twelve weeks over two phases.

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Our former blog is archived at: http://bostoneyelincolnshire.blogspot.com

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