Controversial plans for a charitable company to take over the running of Jubilee Park in Woodhall Spa were in complete disarray today (Thursday) after a dramatic U-turn by parish councillors.
The new company - led by five interim directors - had been expected to sign a long-term lease agreement to take over the park which is owned by the village parish council.
Negotiations between the company and the parish council had been on-going for 18 months.
A potential stumbling block appeared to have been overcome at a meeting last month when the parish council voted 6-5 to remove a clause from the lease agreement.
That clause effectively gave the parish council the power to hold some control over any future planning applications for the park.
Directors of the company had warned they would walk away from agreement - if the clause was not removed.
However, the decision to remove it led to protests by residents who claimed councillors had effectively been ‘blackmailed.’
But at an extraordinary meeting of the parish council last night (Wednesday), that decision was reversed.
Councillors voted 6-4 to re-insert the clause and directors of the company immediately said they were no longer interested in taking over the park.
Last night’s dramatic events only added to a several days of confusion following the initial vote.
The council initially took advice and declared the vote was invalid because it was not included as a formal agenda item for the relevant meeting.
On Tuesday, though, the council then announced the vote would stand, having taken further legal advice.
It was understood a re-vote could take place for another six months, because of conditions in the council’s standing orders.
However, at the meeting last night, it was revealed four councillors had signed a motion, calling for a re-vote.
Questioned by councillors, parish clerk Amanda Bushell said the vote could take place following advice from East Lindsey District Council’s monitoring officer.
After the vote, parish councillors agreed to form their own company to administer the park ahead of the new tourist season.
However, it is thought they will look to involve members of the community so the company is eligible for relief on VAT payments and grant funding.
During the meeting, Coun Tim Peacock - a director of the initial company involved in the proposed handover - called for the 6-5 vote to stand.
He said the company needed to have complete independence from the parish council. He added directors would not make any profit from the venture which he stressed was a community organisation.
Coun Peacock was backed by Coun David Hill who warned if the parish council effectively re-took control, village council taxpayers could end up covering any losses in the park’s operations.
Directors present at the meeting did not comment after the vote and council chairman David Clarke also rejected a request to be interviewed.