Spalding businesses welcome move to prevent ghost town

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TOWN centre traders have welcomed news that more is to be done to stop Spalding becoming a ghost town.

The Government has launched a campaign to encourage councils to lower parking charges and put “town centres first” when considering plans for out of town retail parks.

And it has been hailed as a “step in the right direction” by one shopkeeper, who says big chains, such as Sainsbury’s and Argos in Spalding, are taking the lion’s share of trade and “killing off the small guys”.

Steve Mason, of Masons Models in New Road, said: “This is very welcome news. At present Spalding is very unwelcoming to shoppers because of the cost and problems of parking.

“Why would shoppers pay to park in the town centre when they can park at Sainsbury’s for free or they have already paid to park at Springfields?

“I don’t want to see any more big stores open out of town.

“In fact I would like to see those ones which we already have, closed down because they take all the business and it means people can’t be bothered to come into town.

“I have seen the devastation that the big chains cause. They take the lion’s share and kill off specialist shops because they encroach on our specialities.”

And Julie Grant, owner of Butters in Westlode Street, says the Government’s plans “have got to be good news”, because independent traders need shoppers’ support before the high street dies completely.

She said: “This campaign is a big plus as far as I am concerned.

“As a town we need to be encouraging shoppers to keep the town alive. It would help if we had free parking, if not on all days then at least on the two market days.”

And Mrs Grant says one idea mooted by traders would encourage more people from rural areas who rely on their cars to come into town.

She said: “One suggestion has been to put a multi-storey car park where the derelict sorting office is in The Crescent. It has become an eyesore over the years and could be put to good use.

“We are not like a big city where you can just get on a bus or train and go and do your shopping. People who live out in the surrounding villages are reliant on their own transport and they need to be able to park when they get to their destination.

“Too many times I hear people saying that they have been out of town to Springfields because they can park when they get there, when actually they could have bought what they wanted in the town centre for the same price by supporting the high street shops.”

The new Government campaign was announced by Communities Secretary Eric Pickles, who said it was time to end the “parking nightmare” faced by motorists trying to shop in the local high street.

Councils will now be free to cut the costs of parking in town centres in a bid to encourage shoppers back in.