There is a heated debate in Holbeach just now about how to rescue our town.
Different groups have varying ideas and residents are deeply upset by the recent deterioration of the town centre and High Street.
The Civic Society, the Business Forum and other organisations have failed or are threatened by falls in membership and a lack of people volunteering to act as officers.
It’s very easy to criticise and much harder to act.
We do, however, have one of the largest parishes in England and by making full use of our parish council, we can pull things round if everyone who cares gets on board.
I have put together ten pointers to recovery, drawn from ideas of others with a few of my own. I hope this will help to make the debate more constructive.
SHOPPING LIST FOR HOLBEACH REVIVAL
1. Return Boston Road car park to free use all day or offer special rates for long-term parking. Open both entrances and divide with bollards. Alternatively consider taking the plunge, accepting the risk and having the parish council run the car park, even if it slightly increases the parish precept. The new developments will bring in more money anyway. This could also give the parish control of the market, which offers interesting possibilities.
2. Grab 106 money from new developments to buy one or more empty High Street shops. Turn into ‘pop ups’ for local business and groups to try out their idea for a few weeks at a nominal charge and/or for, say, six months at a low rent. Fund by renting top floors as flats. By the end of this year the parish will have eight staff, use several contractors, already own two shops, a suite of offices and some residential property, it’s not such a big leap.
3. Establish a parish council group to lobby businesses and landlords to smarten up their premises and apply for grants for that purpose. The Civic Society could help.
4. Make the parish council responsible for co-ordinating and helping all Holbeach groups who wish to organise joint or large events ( but not to run them – groups must also be free to do their own things). Our groups and clubs could provide mutual support for each other.
5. Grab as much control over local matters as possible from South Holland District Council and a fair share of funding to go with it.
6. Establish the park as the main venue for larger summer outdoor events and provide a dedicated area for that purpose. Use the old market for smaller and commercial ones and that or the youth club hub for winter/indoor ones.
7. Move the dog run to one side of the park, establish a dog club to help run it and keep it clean. If operated carefully it could possibly be hired to dog trainers for short periods to generate revenue for maintenance.
8. Continue to improve exercise facilities in the park.
9. Open a better parish website with links to existing ones, like Spotted Holbeach.
10. Form a group to help migrant communities to integrate, including help with learning English and dealing with official paperwork, provided by volunteers from inside and outside those very communities.
This would take a lot of good will, compromise and require everyone to put the town before their own group but something like this would work, provided sufficient people join in. Returning Holbeach to life requires more than just the usual few individuals and businesses doing all the work and everyone else complaining.
Use of internet shopping, geography, recent changes and simple apathy make town revivals difficult but not impossible. It’s got to be worth doing something now rather than hoping that grand schemes will do the job for us. They rarely succeed but people working together can.