FEATURE: Challenges facing town revealed

Boston Market Place. Stock image
Boston Market Place. Stock image

New figures shown to Boston Borough Council have shed light on the town’s challenges. Standard reporter Daniel Jaines has been taking a look at some of them...

New figures reveal just some of the challenges facing Boston, with visitors numbers declining and the number of empty shops rising.

But overall the town offers a ‘vibrant shopping centre’ insists Boston Borough Council.

A report from the authority covering the first quarter of this year (April to June) has been discussed by the council’s scrutiny committee and cabinet and showed that when compared to the same period last year the average daily footfall was down eight per cent.

The number of vacant retail units was shown to be up four per cent and the number of car parking tickets sold was down three per cent.

The income from ticket machines themselves had effectively stayed level (increasing by just one per cent).

But the income from car parking - including passes and fines - was down nine per cent.

A spokesman for the council said however that annual figures were better for making ‘sensible comparisons’ adding that year-on-year, Boston was ‘holding its own’.

They said: “Looking at overall year-on-year trends, Boston is rather holding its own and is not seeing a massive downturn – that’s good news – we present a vibrant shopping centre.

“And it’s a fact that more and more people are shopping online and that less retail space is going to be needed in the future than is now – that is not simply a Boston challenge but a national one.

“Vacant shop units – compared to many towns our vacancy rate is not bad at all and people I show around Boston are incredibly impressed by the vibrancy and the low rate of vacancies. And vacancies do need to happen to allow new uses and new businesses to come in. But we are not complacent.”

The spokesman said ‘many factors’ can affect quarterly figures due to them being gathered on the same single day of each month over a period of 30 minutes - they said they can be skewed by, for example, bad weather.

They believed that since parking fees had not changed since the previous year’s first quarter, it could not be attributed to the decline in tickets sold.

They suggested that the figures showed people could be staying in the car parks for longer and buying higher priced tickets.

The spokesman added: “Our parking fees are reasonable and so parking for several hours rather than just one hour is good value.

“Some might be using other private car parks – in terms of people coming to Boston we really don’t mind.”

Here are some of the figures put to the council comparing quarter one (Q1) of 2014-15 to the same period this year (2015-16).

○ Average daily pedestrian footfall in quarter one (Q1) of 2014-15 was 2,585, this year it was 2,366 – a fall of 219 people (eight per cent).

○ Vacant retail units was up from 14 per cent in Q1 of 2014-15 to 18 per cent this year – a rise of four per cent.

○ Car parking tickets sold was down from 146,064 in Q1 of 2014-15 to 142,063 – a fall of 4,001 tickets (three per cent).

○ Car parking fee income from ticket machines was considered level at one per cent, rising from £210,965 to £212,470.

○ Total car parking fee income (including passes and fines) dropped by nine per cent from £247,935 to £277,628.