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Louth Area Committee: Parking Enforcement, Town Hall and Markets

November 27th 2012

The Town Hall  

The town hall

The Louth Area Committee met on Monday 26th November, and the new parking enforcement Gestapo were one of the first things to be discussed. On December 3rd the county council will take over street parking enforcement, and their contractors have already been seen out and about. Councillor Adam Grist asked "Do market traders need a permit to park close to the market place to load and unload at the end of the day?" He then went on to mention people who had been given warning notices for loading and unloading tools. "I hope there is some common sense before anyone gets too carried away."

A market trader had complaints about traders being told they would need to use the parking bay outside of Boots, and people getting tickets for doing their jobs. "I was told market traders wouldn't have to deal with this. This is not happening."

Councillor Craig Leyland, ELDC portfolio holder for economic regeneration (which includes markets), agreed with Councillor Grist. "There does need to be a common sense approach. They can't impose the strict letter of the law."

However the picture that emerged from people's accounts wasn't one of common sense and sanity. Councillor George Horton related a case of a window cleaner who was told by a parking enforcement officer that he couldn't park the van that he needed to do his job. "It's my understanding the parking enforcement officers have no discretion."

"This is mad," Councillor John Hough commented.

The Mayor Jill Makinson-Sanders remarked on the large numbers of enforcement officers walking around in groups. "Do we need these droves of people?" she asked. "It's very intimidating."

Questions were asked about when market traders will have some clarity about their parking concerns, with the change only days away from implementation.

Retail study

Councillor Andrew Leonard raised a question about a recent report on supermarkets, asking whether it had cost taxpayers 25 000.

"It cost roughly 24 000," Councillor Leyland clarified. He explained that the study was independently asked for and provided, and that it dealt with a number of sites within Louth. It was done because Louth has been the subject of numerous applications for supermarkets.

The town hall

Andy Howlett spoke to the committee about his plans for the town hall. Mr Howlett, a former headteacher, is the CEO of the community interest company that has taken over the building, Louth Education Community Interest Group. He explained the three areas they hope to develop to turn the building into a thriving centre for the town and to keep it self-financing. These areas are entertainment, core skills and education. There are plans for wedding licenses, organ concerts, and hosting local and regional bands there. He also talked about the way it was once used for dances. Core skills, business support and advice were also mentioned as offerings, and they are also partnering with the Louth Target and Louth Town Partnership. "The education arm keeps it all financially viable", he explained.

A member of the public pointed out that "the acoustics are appalling."

Mr Howlett was quick to respond that work to improve this was already underway, and that they were looking to extend the hearing loop.

Councillor Grist was enthusiastic. "Eighteen months ago we had a town hall that was hardly ever used. It was costing taxpayers about 70 000 a year. Now it's being used every day. The doors are open. It's not costing us as taxpayers a penny."

Councillor Laura Stephenson raised concerns about its effects on other groups. "A lot of different groups in the area are stretched because grants are stretched. I'm concerned that grants would go to you and not the other organisations."

Councillor Hough also raised questions about who would be responsible for the maintenance, and what would be plan B if the grants LECIG needs can't be secured. Mr Howlett responded by referring to the group's detailed business plan. They are budgeting at least 140 000 for building maintenance, double ELDC's spend, and this includes developing the building to bring it up to a higher standard of repair.

Councillor Grist rose to the defence of this project. "Councillor Hough is, as usual, quick to criticise," he said. "We had Andy's business plan independently assessed. It's far better to give this initiative a chance."

Andy Howlett talks a very good game. He had a ready answer to every question, and I would even go so far as to say he was pretty charismatic, projecting the kind of confidence that makes it easy to believe he can achieve what he says he can. Time will tell, as ever. There's a website up at http://www.louthtownhall.co.uk/, which is designed with an emphasis on huge orange letters for some reason You can also pick up a copy of the business plan from the town hall, if you want to examine it in detail.


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