The chairman of Horncastle Town Council has hit back at claims the town is dying and called for major investment to boost local infrastructure.
Coun Brian Burbidge was responding to comments by a leading county councillor amid renewed calls for a Horncastle bypass.
Colin Davie, Executive Councillor for Economy and Place at County Hall, says businesses had indicated the town is dying and that a bypass would end notorious jams and get ‘Lincolnshire moving quicker.’
However, Coun Burbidge has denied the town is dying and told Coun Davie that negative statements were not helping ‘the town now, or in the future.’
Coun Davie said: “Businesses are saying that the place is dying.
“To have a vibrant Horncastle we need more homes - and I’m not talking about building on the green belt - more businesses and factories and an infrastructure in place to support our ambitious plans for Lincolnshire to get moving quicker.
“We know in the summer traffic gets gridlocked at Horncastle and Wragby and we need to find ways of alleviating this.
“It’s not going to happen next week, but we have to look at the future now. There is no point looking backwards to a gentler way of life because change is happening.
“We need to make sure that what we hand over to the next generation is better than what we inherited.”
Coun Burbidge launched a staunch defence of the town and said residents and businesses were ‘split’ on whether a bypass was needed.
He said: “I am somewhat surprised by this statement. The businesses I speak to are not telling me the town is dying, although like any business they would like a better footfall in the town.
“Currently, there are more than 850 homes with outline planning permission in Horncastle and only one project of 300 dwellings has started and they only intend to build and sell 30 dwellings per year making the development a ten year project. These projects need to go ahead to help the town to grow.
“Regarding the need for a bypass, currently based on polls the town appears to be split.
“What is needed is the town’s infrastructure updating to prevent flooding problems, create more parking, provide free parking and increase highway maintenance which will help to reduce the current traffic problems.
“Recently an upgrade to the electricity supply for the industrial estate was started to cater for increased production capacity by a major business. Does this suggest Horncastle is failing?
“Horncastle has two excellent senior schools with pupils going on to greater things throughout the world. Does this suggest a failing town.
“A new community magazine launched in December was well supported by local businesses and organisations, our annual Christmas market was well supported by town businesses and the town’s residents - despite poor weather.
“We accept there will be challenges and we will face them and find ways to overcome them. Negative statements do not help Horncastle now or in the future.”
The County Council and East Lindsey District Council have indicated they would support a bypass although the key - as ever - as Government funding.
The Town’s MP Victoria Atkins has voiced her support and is likely to be a key figure in any talks at Westminster.
ELDC leader Coun Craig Leyland has previously told the News that a bypass could deliver a multi-million pound boost to the Wolds and East Coast tourist economy. Tourism is currently worth an estimated £584 to the East Lindsey economy but the district council has ambitious plans to double that figure by 2020.
An end to jams in Horncastle would deliver a significant boost to those plans.