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Town Council Round-Up: 9m Cattle Market Rescue Comes With A Catch

March 5th 2014

Queen Street

Queen Street surgery, where a store is planned

Supermarkets were a hot topic at the town council meeting of 4th March. In the public forum, a new group came forward, headed by Alan Grantham and Kevin Boot. The New Louth Forward Group was formed on the 3rd of March.

"We would like clear and open access," Mr Grantham said. He called for "full and fair debate held in the town."

Even though I was there to listen to the presentation, I didn't come out any wiser about the purpose of this group. After all, the town council is already there to listen to everyone and provide representative debate, as is the district council. Perhaps this group will be clearer about its mission given time.

Chris McConnon then spoke out about residents' parking. "A lot of residents of Louth have been unable to park outside their homes. People are abandoning vehicles because people can't afford the car parking fees."

His call for residents' parking permits struck a nerve with Councillor Jill Makinson-Sanders, who asked: "If there's a need, why aren't the county council listening?"

"The problem originally comes from central government," Councillor Laura Stephenson said.

"There are families in this town who have six cars per household," Councillor Margaret Ottaway suggested.

Planning

There were several planning applications up for consideration, but only a couple of them were notable. In Queen Street, planning permission was granted some time ago for stores on the site of the medical practice and the nearby garage. However, it was originally granted subject to a number of conditions. The applicant, Park Broom Homes, has made another application to vary a large number of the conditions that were set out. Councillor Brian Burnett said he found this application "very unusual".

However, Councillor Andrew Leonard questioned why "so many obstacles had been put in front of this." He pointed out that this would be "a supermarket in the town centre."

The implication in that statement is, this would be preferable to a supermarket on the edge of town that would take trade away from the town centre. In the end the town council voted to make no observations on this application.

Skate park

There was another application, for the skate park in Wood Lane, which is to have a polyethylene cover to dampen the noise of rolling wheels. The town council was in favour of that.

The cattle market funding options

Councillor Colin Davie from Lincolnshire County Council, and his colleague Justin Brown who is Head of Economic Development at LCC, spoke to the council about the cattle market.

"If you lose the cattle market on this particular site it will be a disservice not just to the town but to the county," Councillor Davie said. He pledged LCC's support in bringing forth a scheme.

Justin Brown explained the details. "It is very important that any scheme has a clear direction. What people succeed with is taking the strength of their area and making it better. In Louth there is a very strong food offer. A very strong supply chain."

Mr Brown detailed two funding programmes.
  1. EAFRD (European Agricultural Fund For Rural Development). This is a Euro grant which provides up to 40% of the cost of a project. It could provide 9m for the next seven years. The first bids for funding would need to be made in September-October.
  2. The Leader Programme (The Lindsey Action Zone). This can't be used to match up with the EAFRD funding.
"You can only sell the family silver once," Councillor Davie said. Should the cattle market in Louth be sold, he expressed concern that "that will be the end of the livestock markets in Lincs."

"That asset is owned by the whole of East Lindsey," Councillor Pauline Watson pointed out. She expressed doubts that the rest of East Lindsey would want to work with Louth.

Councillor Leonard was more enthusiastic. "You have thrown a gauntlet down which we can do nothing but pick up," he told Councillor Davie. He was also concerned about East Lindsey's handling of the cattle market, saying: "My worry is it will go purely to the highest bidder with no merit."

Councillor Davie reassured the town councillors about what would happen if a supermarket moved on to the site, leading to the need for new road infrastructure: "If they sell it to a supermarket, we expect them to pay. If there is an attempt to put a supermarket on that site I will ask the Secretary of State to call it in." Councillor Stephenson expressed concerns about the amount of money involved. "Every local government association is having to deal with these cuts," she said.

"There are other funding sources out there," Mr Brown said. "People would identify a main funding source."

Councillor Margaret Ottaway agreed, saying "You've got to have a wider view of where finance can come from."

Councillor Brian Burnett "As a town we face a stark choice. We grasp this opportunity. What it takes is leadership."

Councillor Sue Locking, a member of KLS, said: "This is all music to my ears. It's the silver, and ELDC hasn't looked after the silver."

"We are looking at bringing huge numbers of new tourists to Lincs," Councillor Davie said. "They are not going to want to come to a town that has had its heart ripped out." Councillor James Pocklington also expressed doubts about the size of the project, saying: "I'm not sure who is going to commit themselves."

"I think East Lindsey are a fairly strong foe," Councillor George Horton said.

The town will have to find 13.5 million over seven years if it is to match the EAFRD funding, and that does seem like an awfully large amount. By comparison, the town council has a total budget in the region of 200,000 per year, whilst the district council's precept is in the range of 4.8 million per year.

Moreover, the cattle market is unlikely to be worth as much as it was to a supermarket, before Aldi's application to build on the Malt Kiln site was approved. With that in mind, these development grants do seem like silly money. It's very encouraging that the cattle market has support from the county council, but it's not going to be any use if the schemes for funding its regeneration are unrealistic.



 


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