Thurrock Independent leader, Cllr Luke Spillman, said, “As a place of business, Grays High Street and surrounding areas have been in terminal decline for many years. Charity shops, discount stores, pawn brokers and betting shops are almost all that remain. It was easy to foresee the pressure Lakeside would place on Grays town centre. However, rather than being inevitable, the decline of Grays was the result of poor planning and a lack of vision from Thurrock Council.
“The future for Grays town centre may look bleak but there is hope if Thurrock Council has the vision and commitment to seize the opportunities that the development of a cultural, arts and nightlife zone could bring. Every day and night, Thurrock residents travel out of Thurrock to consume culture, art and entertainment, because the offerings within Thurrock are so limited. They spend their hard earned money in the many other boroughs that benefit from their custom.
“Grays will never be able to compete with Lakeside as a shopping venue. However, with a targeted investment strategy it could once again be a place that people, in large numbers, visit in the evenings and weekends to socialise, eat, drink, dance, watch films etc. We need to give residents a reason to spend their money within Thurrock and attract residents from outside Thurrock to do the same. Furthermore, we owe it to our young people to provide them with safe environments to enjoy themselves. It is a shameful fact that many people are now frightened of visiting Grays high street, especially after dark. This situation should never have been allowed to occur and cannot be allowed to continue.”