Horncastle’s mayor has hit back at a Louth councillor who labelled the town a ‘backwater’ and slammed plans to redevelop the Mareham Road college site as ‘a waste of money.’
East Lindsey District Council will move from their current headquarters in Manby to Horncastle at a cost of more than £8m.
The plans also feature a public sector hub and an educational facility, run in partnership with Boston College.
Andrew Leonard, a Louth town and district councillor, said he was ‘vehemently against’ the project.
Speaking at a town council meeting, Coun Leonard said: “It’s a very interesting exercise in how to waste £8.5m of public money in a plot that is barely big enough to site the whole project on and tucked away in a housing estate off a very busy junction.
“If it was private business money, you wouldn’t have even entertained that site.
“Louth is the largest town in East Lindsey. Why on earth would you move to a backwater such as Horncastle?”
Horncastle Mayor Coun Fiona Martin said: “I’m not surprised Coun Leonard has had a pop, given his opposition to this and the fact is not happening in Louth.
“Horncastle is most definitely not a backwater. If Coun Leonard – or any other Louth councillors – would like to contact me, I’d gladly arrange a tour of our lovely town.”
ELDC has agreed to allocate £6.23m to the project and is also seeking £1.52m from the Greater Lincolnshire Local Enterprise Partnership towards the cost.
The development could bring a significant economic boost to Horncastle but Coun Leonard maintains the site was in the wrong place, too small, too expensive and had no scope for development in the future.
He added: “(The district council) are hell-bent on going there, come hell or high water.
He claimed ELDC’s attitude is: ‘it’s going to happen, get over it’ and that there is ‘horrendous’ traffic near the site.
Another Louth councillor, Pauline Watson, asked whether high-cost relocation packages would be paid to staff members, of which ‘at least 60 per cent’ live in the Louth area.
Coun Leonard said a consultation had taken place with staff, but added: “I’ve yet to find any (staff member) who actually wants to go.
“But, as with most things in life, the higher echelons want to go, therefore all those minions underneath are very reluctant to say anything for fear of losing their jobs or being side-stepped.”
Coun Martin questioned how many staff live in the Louth area.
She added: “For years, staff living in the Horncastle area – and councillors – have driven up and down the A153 to Manby. Could it be Coun Leonard and other Louth councillors don’t fancy that same return journey?
“A lot of what they are saying is patently not true.
“I would agree there are traffic issues which I have highlighted but there is a full traffic management survey being carried out and recommendations made before anything happens.”
What Craig Leyland said
The leader of East Lindsey District Council, Craig Leyland, said: “I am exceptionally disappointed to read the negative, misleading and inaccurate statements by Councillor Leonard.
“Describing Horncastle as a ‘backwater’ is very disrespectful to the residents of Horncastle.
“It is worrying that Councillor Leonard has forgotten that he is an ELDC councillor responsible for strategic decisions made on behalf of the whole district, not just Louth.
“The Public Sector Hub is an ambitious, well thought through project that will transform the way in which we are able to serve our residents and work with partners.
“The Mareham Road site provides the space we need to create a modern and more efficient office base for the council and a range of partners, with opportunities for future expansion as needed.
“Securing a partnership with Boston College will result in an further education college coming to central East Lindsey benefiting residents and business; and bringing part of our workforce to Horncastle each day will benefit the shops.
“We have actively engaged our teams in the plans for the new office and their contributions continue to shape the plans as they develop.
“Teams are also helping to shape how their services will be delivered in the future, recognising that we need to be more agile and flexible in the way we do business to both enable us to recruit and meet the demands of our residents.”
Horncastle residents react
Horncastle residents have backed Mayor Councillor Fiona Martin in her defence of the town after claims it is a ‘backwater’.
Mark Laverack said: “Louth is a lot bigger place and has a lot more public money thrown at it down the years than Horncastle.
“They got their bypass.
“Are they just jealous that for once Horncastle is getting something positive and they aren’t?”
Lucy Jackson said: “The last time I was in Louth, it was hardly a picture.
”Like most towns, they’ve got empty shops and charity shops.
“Horncastle is quieter and that’s why a lot of people like it. It’s not a backwater.”
Pauline Tate added: “The Louth councillor should look at his own town first.
“This (the redevelopment) has got to be good for Horncastle.
“It’s not just the council move but also the college plans.
“Hopefully, it mean kids won’t have to get up at the crack of dawn to catch a bus to Lincoln or Boston.”
Mark Taylor said talk of a ‘relocation package’ for council employees was ‘ridiculous.’
He said: “I’ve commuted from Horncastle to Louth for work for 20-odd years. I don’t get a penny back. Why should council staff be different?”
Several residents said they shared concerns about an increase in traffic – both in and around Mareham Road and in the town centre.
Colin Saunders said: “Getting out (of Mareham Road) onto Boston Road at busy times is already a nightmare.
“There are the delays at the traffic lights (Boston Road/Jubilee Way).
“They’ll have to do something because a lot of the people at the new site will be coming through the town.
“Perhaps these Louth councillors should show us how they got a bypass.”
Angela Mortimer added: “The councils need to spend something improving roads.
“There has been talk about a new access into the college site off Foundry Street but that’s ‘supposed’ to be residents’ only.
“Lots of kids use it on their way to Banovallum School.
“There are already problems and the last thing anyone wants is more traffic.”