Disrespect, rudeness and ‘hidden plans’ - the battle for the future of The Wong

The Wong - at the centre of new speculation about its future
The Wong - at the centre of new speculation about its future

East Lindsey District Council has refuted suggestions it wants to sell The Wong amid mounting concern about the future of the site.

A key meeting was held recently between landowners ELDC and the Wong Working Group.(WWG)

However, it broke up amid a series of recriminations and a resignation.

That has led to fresh doubt about ELDC’s plans for the historic site.

It has emerged the Working Group put forward proposals to safeguard The Wong’s future.

They suggested retaining a third of the area as a ‘green’ community facility, utilising one third as a car park and selling the remaining third for housing.

However, ELDC apparently rejected the idea amid accusations their two representatives at the meeting were “downright disrespectful and rude.”

The claim was made by Maureen Traves, who said ELDC was only interested in gaining “maximum capital” from The Wong.

She has subsequently resigned from the WWG.

Mrs Traves’ views were backed by Town and County Councillor Bill Aron who is chairman of the WWG.

Coun Bill Aron claimed ELDC saw The Wong as a “cash cow” and said the authority continually “moved the goalposts” in negotiations.

He said: “Our recent meeting with Coun John Upsall and Gary Sargeant (ELDC’s representatives) was quite a shock to us all.

“I would certainly concur with Maureen Traves that their attitude was not what you would expect from a senior councillor, nor a senior local government officer, especially in light of the fact that Horncastle is willing to compromise as to the future of the former Cattle Market area and that ELDC has already indicated they were prepared to asset transfer part of The Wong and said they would welcome a community proposal.

“Unfortunately, this is not the first time ELDC has moved the goalposts.”

In a letter sent to the News outlining her reasons for resigning, Mrs Traves said: “We decided to invite ELDC to meet with the committee (WWG) to have a round table discussion as to a possible compromise over the whole Wong area.

“We were treated with indifference, even downright disrespect and rudeness from the start.

“It was clear no objective discussion was going to take place.

“I can appreciate ELDC is under great pressure from this Government but to keep prioritising maximum capital is short signed to say the least.

“We pay ELDC via council taxes to serve the community - not destroy it.

“The Wong is not just any bit of land. It is a loved and valued traditional site.”

The meeting was the latest twist in the saga over the future of The Wong.

The WWG held a public consultation earlier this year when there was overwhelming support for retaining the area for community use.

Coun Aron said he believed ELDC was looking to capitalise on potentially developing the site.

He said: “The WWG will continue to make representations so that this historic site should benefit Horncastle for the enjoyment of the community and visitors alike.

“It is not surprising that Maureen has become disillusioned and left the group, which is sad after all her hard work.

“It is vitally important to Horncastle that what is left of the open aspect is retained.”

Asked to comment on the claims, ELDC said: “We have no plans for the redevelopment of The Wong at this time.”