• Breathing life into Gravesend town centre

    December 6, 2019 | Blog | admin
  • We’re beating the drum and want to ‘grow’ our town.With more people shopping online and out of town there’s never been a better time to celebrate our fantastic traders, the people who put life into the town and really give it heart and soul.

    We’ve lost a few of our brand names but our independents and a few notable big name stores have stuck with Gravesend and really deserve our support.We’ve spoken to a raft of local businesses for their views on making Gravesend a magnet for shoppers.

    Top of their list is a demand for parking restrictions to be eased, with big stores enticed to come here. Some want better street lighting.It will require renewed efforts by our local authorities to make this a reality, using vision, creativity and innovative ways to finance the cost.

    Surprisingly, business rates did not figure as a major issue with traders we spoke to, but they do feel their key demands are achievable, especially as Gravesend council is on course to receive a windfall of some £20 million as a result of the Chancellor’s change in business rates policy.

    It will allow councils to keep the money instead of ending up in the Treasury’s coffers.Here are some of our traders’ views:Mrs Ha Tran, owner of the Asian Market store, Queen Street: “People can’t park here very well, they have to keep running out of the shop to make sure they don’t get a ticket. Free weekend parking would help us lot.”Omer Mehmet, 60, at J’S Diner, Queen Street: “The biggest problem is Bluewater. I’d like to see free parking every day over Gravesend over set periods.”

    Ibrahim Wilmaz, who runs Kings Diner, on the corner of King Street and Parrock Street said: “We very much need big name retailers to come here. We’ve even lost M&S which was a big attraction to bring in shoppers. I’d like to see the council attract it back.”Debbie Hellier, owner of Crumbs cafe, King Street, said: “Ease up on car parking! In some places it can cost £6.50p a day. Also we need more well known brand stores. When M&S left, it had a huge negative impact. I used to have some regular elderly customers here after shopping there. Now they don’t.”

    Jack Kamenou, owner of Reliance fish and chip restaurant, Queen Street, said: “We need free car parking for people who spend money in the town, NOT for people who work here, otherwise spaces fill up. It requires a system to prove they have shopped in the town, perhaps with a receipt. Also, encourage big retailers to come in and get M&S back.”

    Ejaz Aslam, owner of the handbag and sports bag store Aslamtex, said: “Parking is one of the big issues for me. Currently shoppers are constrained having just two hours. So why can’t they pay with their ticket when they exit? Street lighting is also very poor – the town needs to be brightened up.

    Graham East, 63, owner of The Dolphin Angling Centre, Queen Street, said: “Local government should work with landlords to improve their business fronts and improve the environment.

    Charlie Venner, 37, of recently opened micro pub The Compass Ale, Manor Road, said: “Parking for free at some stage would make a massive difference. And let’s get the large stores in – that would help a lot. It was a bit of a downer when M&S closed.”Here’s our manifesto for rejuvenating our town centre economy

    1. Ease up parking on-street parking restrictions
    2. Cheaper parking for shoppers and extend free periods
    3. Actively attract the big brands back
    4. More street entertainment and events
    5. Improve the street scene
    6. Encourage and help start-ups to use vacant space
    7. More PCSOs on patrol; less parking wardens
    8. Use internet discounts to build footfall
    9. Gravesham council leader John Cubitt insists town shoppers already get a good deal from parking and things are about to get better.

    “Our parking charges overall are among the cheapest in Kent. All the evidence the council has indicates that all-day free car parking (on Saturdays) is both expensive to the council taxpayer and may actually damage footfall,” he said.

    “The evidence from our experience, and other councils, is car parks fill up early [when free] and remain full all day with people not necessarily spending that time in the town. There is even evidence motorists avoid the town as a result. That is why we are introducing a year’s trial of two hours free parking from November because that has been shown to maximise footfall.”

    On sprucing up the town, he said floral displays were winning regional awards with new seating positioned around Community Square.“Gravesham Council has continued to invest in the town – all this against a backdrop of the £120m regeneration of its heritage quarter and impressive plans to rejuvenate the historic market in the next year.

    Thanks to Kenton Line for the post: https://www.kentonline.co.uk/gravesend/news/breathing-life-into-our-town-44849/