Since it first opened nine years ago Marshall’s Yard has gone from strength to strength - enticing new businesses and visitors to Gainsborough and hosting an array of popular events.
In contrast to this the town centre has seen many shops left empty for long periods of time and has seen little development and growth.
Gainsborough’s mayor says it is a major, ongoing issue and this week branded the town centre “soulless”, “horrible” and “uninviting”.
Councillor Matthew Boles said: “The decline and appearance of the town centre is a massive issue to local residents. Every time I speak to people it is always an issue that is raised.
“The look and feel of the town centre is a major issue as well as the number of empty shops.
“People feel the town centre itself is now a horrible, uninviting place that they do not enjoy spending any time in and I have to say I agree, it is soulless.
“As a town council we fully support West Lindsey District Council’s plans to apply for heritage grants to improve the look and feel of the centre.
“If I had one chance to make a difference to the town centre it would be to pull all of the interested parties, such as West Lindsey District Council, Gainsborough Town Partnership, Independent Traders, Gainsborough Town Council, Marshall’s Yard, and anyone else together and start to work joined up instead of all pulling in different directions and doing their own different things.
“If anything is to succeed and bring the much needed improvements we all have to work together.
“As for Marshall’s Yard they have done a great job with bringing people to the town and have clearly shown their commitment to working with others to help achieve the desired transformation and improvements in the town centre.
“They work closely with the town council in organising the town Christmas lights switch on and many other events and hopefully this year these will be bigger and better than ever.
“They have also shown a massive amount of support to local businesses which are not even based in the yard through the DN21 Awards which has been a great success.”
Marshall’s Yard bosses say they are doing all they can to boost visitor numbers to both the shopping complex and the rest of the town.
Centre manager Alison Hall: “Marshall’s Yard has definitely brought more people into Gainsborough since the centre opened nine years ago. We know from our own research that we get visitors from across the region as well as our more local customers who would have previously shopped in neighbouring towns for many of the stores they now have here in their own community.
“It’s also great to see the wider investment which is happening in the town at the moment.
“We work closely with stakeholders and businesses across the whole town to promote Gainsborough and attract visitors and are currently planning the second annual DN21 Awards which are aimed at celebrating excellence in business and retail. We work on a great programme of events throughout the year where we share resources across the town including the annual Christmas Lights Switch On and we’re always keen to hear new ideas to promote Gainsborough.
“Everyone is also working together to aim for a Silver Gilt Award in the East Midlands in Bloom this year, companies at Marshall’s Yard are working with town centre retailers to ensure the town looks its best for the judges.”
Gainsborough town manager Samantha Mellows said: “The addition of Marshall’s Yard to Gainsborough nine years ago has had a positive impact upon the town. The centre attracts visitors from outside Gainsborough who may otherwise choose to travel to Lincoln or other neighbouring towns.
“While the town centre has suffered in previous years, it has seen a number of new businesses recently including national chains which shows confidence in Gainsborough. New developments such as the proposed Premier Inn on Market Street and Lidl on Beaumont Street add to this confidence and help bring the traditional town centre and Marshall’s Yard together.
“West Lindsey District Council has recently announced a significant amount of funding to be spent on town centre regeneration which again is good news. Gainsborough Town Partnership supports the work of businesses and organisations who are working together to promote Gainsborough as one, through joint events and marketing.”
Owner of Emmalooos coffee shop in Market Place, Matthew Lonsdale, thinks a period of free parking would help entice more people to the town centre.
He said: “One or two hours’ free parking would make a huge difference. People would be able to nip to the bank or go for a coffee without having to pay for a parking space.
“The town centre needs more attention. There needs to be incentive for people to take on the empty shops. Maybe have a few hanging baskets outside.
“However, since the opening of Marshall’s Yard it has helped us. It has brought a different clientelle to Gainsborough and it’s great to have a shopping centre right in the centre of the town which a lot of places don’t have.”
Owner of Fun Printz, in White Lions Yard, Christopher Thompson, said: “I think the main help would be a scheme to not pay rates on empty business premises for the first two years. If you walk around the town centre it is very obvious that there are alot of empty shops and it doesn’t give a good impression.”