Future of Wong is ‘in jeopardy’

Councillor Bill Aron at The Wong ENGEMN00220130819122743
Councillor Bill Aron at The Wong ENGEMN00220130819122743

Plans to establish Horncastle’s historic Wong as a community-owned facility are being put in jeopardy because the chairman of a working group is refusing to discuss on-going issues, it is claimed.

The comments have been made by former town councillor Richard Barker who is a member of the Wong Working Group (WWG).

The group was set up in an attempt to secure a long-term agreement for the future of The Wong - ideally as a community owned site.

However, the land is owned by East Lindsey District Council and talks between the authority and the WWG failed to produce a settlement and ended in acrimony.

The district council now says it will not make any decision on the future of The Wong until next spring - when it has completed a land valuation.

There is growing speculation ELDC favours selling part of The Wong for development .

That would go against the results of a public consultation - set up by the WWG - which came out in favour of a community owned scheme.

At a recent Town Council meeting, district councillor Richard Avison urged the WWG to re-open talks with ELDC.

However, Mr Barker says county councillor Bill Aron - who is chairman of the Working Group - is even refusing to hold a meeting to discuss the issue.

He says the WWG has not met since January and claims it was ‘wrong’ of the group to hand over responsibility for securing The Wong’s future to Horncastle Town Council.

Mr Barker said: “We need to engage with ELDC to try and protect the town from their decisions relating to The Wong.

“As chair of the Working Group, Coun Aron has a clear responsibility to call a meeting without delay and have the decency to acknowledge and answer my requests .

“Failure to do so will put the likelihood of the town getting a part of The Wong for community use at real risk. Coun Aron’s personal failure to recognise this will be his responsibility and his alone.”

Coun Aron hit back and highlighted the progress made during his tenure as chairman, adding Mr Barker had joined the WWG after many issues had been decided.

He added: “We have tried to help him understand the background information and have explained to him that The Stanhope Hall Trustees are, at present, the only Community Group coming forward with an offer to improve, manage and sustain this piece of Horncastle’s heritage.

“There is no-one more passionate than I to stand up and ensure that Horncastle is able to preserve this parcel of land as our heritage.”

The Stanhope Hall Trustees have been pleased that ELDC have allowed them to use the Wong for a number of community events during the last few years.”

Bill concluded, “ This has been an ongoing issue for some 20 years and I have never thought it would be easy but the majority of Members of the Working Group will be pleased if with the Town Council’s help we can come to an agreement to manage and improve this valuable green area for the benefit Horncastle. We will be directed by the Town Council and ELDC”