Greenwoods Menswear is the latest to announce that it is closing down.
Surprisingly for a company that boasts a “mansize” range that goes up to 4XL, it would appear that business is not booming in a town that is famous for the obesity of its population.
And the Edinburgh Woollen Mill shop is also to close.
This in turn may well raise questions about the future of the towns Peacocks store as the Peacocks chain was bought out by Edinburgh Woollen Mill in a rescue operation in February 2012.
Unnoticed amidst these closures – possibly because it is not within a stone’s throw of our local “newspaper” offices – is the disappearance of The Body Shop which has been tarted up to make it more attractive to any potential leaseholder.
All these stores are in the Market Place – which is a big enough mess already without empty shops with windows advertising the like of circus arrivals and speedway meetings.
And let’s not forget that the former Millett’s store is still standing empty as well.
Elsewhere, Pescod Hall, the former Clintons Cards and HMV premises are all empty in Pescod Square.
Clintons Cards was reported to be re-opening in Boston in the former JJB Sports premises on Wide Bargate – but as that was reported in November last year with the opening said to be “around the end of January … in time for Valentine’s Day,” we fear that something may have gone awry.
And as for the Boston Shopping Park – some stores have remained unoccupied since it was built on the six acre former ASDA site in 2006 … eight years ago.
Currently, Boston lacks an economic plan.
The council produced an interim economic development strategy in
2011 with a two-year life which has pretty well failed to meet any of its objectives.
It let the council limp along as usual whilst the Greater Lincolnshire Local Enterprise Partnership was being established and was developing an economic/growth strategy for the Greater Lincolnshire region.
Last month, a report to the council said that the Greater Lincolnshire LEP economic strategy had now been developed and Boston Borough Council “needs to develop its own economic vision and strategy to dovetail with the LEP strategy and provide sustainable economic development in the borough.”
And not a moment too soon.
The Greater Lincolnshire plan covers the county area prior to local government reorganisation in 1974 which hived off an area then named Humberside, and which makes it the second largest council area in England.
With so many big places, it is not surprising that Boston is barely mentioned – and when it is, the population is given as a mere 41,000 – when the latest estimate of 64,600 is still regarded as an underestimate.
In the meantime, the rot sets in still further.
The borough council’s own figures for the final quarter of last year show an average daily pedestrian footfall for the first nine months of 2013 at 2,394 – which seems pretty feeble to us.
Occupied retail shop units in the town centre have fallen to their lowest in four years and there were forty vacant units when the report was compiled.
Meanwhile, Boston shambles on with no current action plan – other that the recognition that it “needs” to develop a “vision.”
Before the tumbleweed starts rolling through the Market Place, it’s surely time to dump the jargon, and get to work on a solution.
Aside from the resignation of the only paid officer – a “facilitator” who quit complaining that she was “deeply concerned” with the management of the project, and often met “obstruction and dismissal” which made the job untenable – questions have been asked about the Big Local “Rep.”
He is Ivan Annibal (pictured right) who runs a Lincoln-based business, and who is currently being given the once-over by Renaisi, the company which trains and supplies the reps.
Mr Annibal – a former Lincolnshire County Council worker – is a very busy man indeed these days, and from a trawl of the internet would seem to consider himself an important person as well.
He is another of those people who has a finger in more pies than he has fingers – although he would appear to be as new to the world of the Big Local as are the members of the committee who appeared as if by magic to manage the spending of our £1 million – and we wonder whether he has reached the point where he has too much on his plate.
In a paean of self-praise on his “Intelligence Forum” website, we noted at the weekend that his role of Big Local rep was listed as “designate” – although it is, of course, now substantive.
Busy as he is, though, he is a man who honours our religious festivals.
The resignation of the Big Local facilitator was reported by Boston Eye last Friday and by the Boston Standard a few hours later.
When asked for a comment by the Standard, his retort was:” “I’m fine, but it’s Good Friday so you’ll have to call me back on Monday, my friend” – clearly overlooking the fact that the Monday in question was Easter Monday.
We have always had scant regard for people who address total strangers as “my friend”.
It’s usually intended to sound clever, but patronising, and thus put the other person at a disadvantage.
To us, it the choice of the expression indicates a pillock.
We have seen e-mails which passed between Mr Annibal and a member of the public who had questions about the appointment of the facilitator, which show him to be a world class prevaricator – which is disappointing when he has charge of a massive sum of public money intended to benefit the town of Boston – in short, we don’t expect the Standard to have much luck whenever they call him back, which so far, they don’t seem to have done.
Why is it that Boston always has such bad luck?
Just as we get shot of the town’s utterly hopeless Business “Improvement” District, we get the Big Local Committee, which seems to have spent hours in meetings that achieve nothing – and on some occasions even less.
Watch out for more in Boston Eye.
Promising that flags would continue to fly over the Assembly Rooms at times of public celebration and for civic occasions despite change of ownership, owner Matt Clark said: "I stressed at the time of the handover that I wanted to see a continuation of community uses at the Assembly Rooms …
… "I am determined that the new future for the Assembly Rooms will keep it at the heart of the community, dominating, as it does, the Market Place …
“… I am very much a traditionalist and take great pride in our heritage and different cultures and will support these in Boston as best I am able."
Continuing the policy of moving “traditional” events away from the Assembly Rooms, the Mayor of Boston will again be declaring the fair open from the steps of the gallopers ride – whereas for decades until the Assembly Rooms were sold, the ceremony took place on the balcony of the building, giving the ceremony a real presence – as our picture above shows.
We wonder whether Boston Borough Council even asked whether the Assembly Rooms could be used for that purpose again this year to restore the broken link with a long standing tradition – but somehow we doubt it.
When the Tories surprised themselves and everyone else by winning control of the council, they restored the rule that length of service determined the choice of mayor and where seven councillors shared the same length of service it was agreed that the postholder should be selected by lot.
Last week we asked the question about how this selection process was organised, and it appears that it usually takes place at a private meeting of the candidates in February – with the result being announced to the members and the public at the following full council meeting.
Amusingly, we were reminded that one member of the old Bypass Independents Party said her reason for favouring an elected mayor was because some councillors were “not fit to be Mayor.”
Although whomever that person had in mind was never specified, our reader commented: “I wonder what that councillor thinks of the suitability of the incoming Mayor.”
It’s five years since the barrier was first proposed – at which time it was said that it would cost £50 million and be completed by this year.
Now, the cost is being quoted as just a tad under £100 million and the Environment Agency has said that “subject to approval,” construction will begin in the summer of 2017 and be completed by the end of 2019.
“Subject to approval” has a leaden ring to it, don’t you think?
There is also a school of thought that flood prevention is secondary, and that the prime reason for building the barrier is to boost the Fens Waterway Project which will connect the Rivers Witham, Glen, Welland, Nene and Ouse and open up 240 km of waterways creating a new circular waterway for recreation, tourism and the environment.
It’s a great idea that will certainly benefit places like Lincoln, Ely and Cambridge – but sadly, yet again Boston is really little more than a staging post for the craft that will use it.
Then there is the financial side …
Boston’s Labour councillors have expressed serious concern about whether the right resources to build the barrier are in place.
They point to Boston Borough Council’s capital programme for the five years to 2018/19 which has no capital proposals for contributions to the flood barrier scheme.
They add: “We know one of the biggest threats to our town is flooding, so shouldn’t the people of Boston be asking a simple question – where is Boston Borough Council’s contribution to this scheme, or are they expecting the government to fund it?”
Our concern is that with so much flooding elsewhere in recent months, the Boston scheme may well be postponed or side-lined – and as costs continue to rise might well be delayed yet again
The recent floods across the country have cost insurers more than £1 billion and in the recent budget, Chancellor George Osborne announced that £140 million would be made available for repairs to flood defences – described as a 'sticking plaster' by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.
And we are unimpressed with the promises of Environment Agency Chairman Lord Smith, whose lacklustre response to the recent Somerset floods led to calls for his resignation and whose term in office ends on 13th July.
During a recent tour of Lincolnshire, he was reported to have confirmed the cost of the scheme at an “estimated” £90 million and said: “I am determined, before I step down as chairman of the EA in a few months’ time to make sure that this is well on its way to happening.”
Well they look to be.
But in terms of convenience, we have some doubts.
The company which makes the kits says that it can’t recommend them for use in salt water flooding, which is what occurred in Boston,
But that problem can be overcome by “simply” folding the strips lengthways in half and soaking half the length in a basin of cold tap water so the fabric-like lining within the strips swells as it becomes a soft waterproof gel.
Are you with us so far …?
Then, with the swollen gel facing out, trap the strips tightly between the door and the frame all along the bottom.
But what the rising flood waters are doing whilst all this is going on is anyone’s guess.
And it seems as though the general public are fairly unimpressed by the chance to get one of these kits – even for nothing, which seems to be about what they are worth in salt water situations.
A fortnight after the offer was first promoted, Wednesday’s Boston Borough bulletin was begging people to apply as there were still “a few” kits left – when surely, there were only a few available to begin with.
The best thing that we think could be done would be for the council to invest in a few thousand sandbags with some of the government’s largesse that is coming the way of the town.
Although the borough’s response to the flood emergency was creditable, we recall that its earliest communication with the public was to tell them: “For the avoidance of doubt, in a flooding incident, Boston Borough Council does not supply sandbags, neither empty nor filled, to any resident or business in Boston borough as the responsibility for safeguarding homes and businesses lies with the owner.”
Not the best response from your self-styled caring council, wethinks.
It’s one thing to chortle about how well you performed after disaster struck, but most local authorities stock sandbags for their own use and the use of the public to help head off disaster before it strikes.
There’s a lesson there somewhere.
They even wheeled out the now long forgotten Dean Everitt, who was once so vocal about immigration, and who organised a protest march or two – and who is now apparently planning to stage some more.
And the piece went on to add: “The town has now become notorious for its strained relations with migrants.”
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But on a brighter note, this week’s Country Life came to Boston’s rescue with a full-page about the main door to the tower of St Botolph’s church in its regular series “Parish church treasures.”
Describing the Stump as “Britain’s greatest medieval church tower,” it went on to detail the importance of this entrance – in particular on Palm Sunday when “the entire congregation would have entered through this door, passing beneath an elevated monstrance* holding a consecrated host. They were led into the building by the priest, who commonly struck the door with the shaft of the processional cross. His action symbolised Christ's forced entrance through the gates of death and the Harrowing of Hell.”
Wouldn’t it be marvellous to see that tradition restored once again?
This self-same letter appeared in the Boston Standard almost a month before on the 19th March – and as we pointed out at the time the staff’s “understanding” was reached against a backdrop that unless they voted for some harsh changes to their working conditions they would be fired and reoffered their jobs only if they accepted the less attractive terms of employment following a two year wage freeze.
Ironically, the week before the letter appeared in the Target the Boston Labour group of councillors sent in a missive on the self-same subject
In it they accused the council leadership of reneging on a promise to restore some of the forfeited pay entitlements, and giving staff no real option to negotiate at all.
Even more disappointing, they continue, is that the report on pay to councillors was written so as to ensure an absence of public scrutiny, denying the public and the media the chance to attend the meeting or see the paperwork involved.
They concluded: “The morale of staff is at an all-time low. The final deal put up to staff is one of the worst examples of employer/employee negotiations that we have ever seen.”
So who’s telling the truth here – Leader or Labour, which is showing itself to be the only real voice of opposition on Boston Borough Council.
As we said when Councillor Bedford’s letter first appeared: “If you put a gun to someone’s head, it is scarcely surprising if they go along with whatever you ask them to ‘volunteer.’
“Treating the electorate with similar contempt by assuming that their attention span is so short that they will be stupid enough to overlook the fact that a threat of redundancy becomes heroic team playing in the space of just three months adds insult to injury.”
After his second attempt, we see no reason to change our view.
And just how much does it cost to open and close a park gate?