Horncastle councillors clash in bust up over town business

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A prominent Horncastle businessman has launched a scathing attacking on East Lindsey District Council and blamed them for the closure of his High Street store.

Richard Barker - who is an outspoken member of Horncastle Town Council - will shut Avante Garde in March after eight years of trading.

Mr Barker blames ELDC’s controversial car parking policy which he claims has turned Horncastle into a ‘ghost town.’

He announced his decision at a meeting of the town council and it led to a bust-up with fellow councillor Bill Aron.

That eventually culminated in Coun Barker leaving the meeting, before it had finished.

Speaking at the meeting about parking charges, Coun Barker said: “My business is closing in three months’ time, simply because people are telling me they do not want to come to Horncastle because of the charges.

“What ELDC has done is a disgrace. Mine is not the first business to close - and it won’t be the last.”

Coun Aron hit back and branded Coun Barker’s comments as “ridiculous and outlandish.”

He told Coun Barker: “I put my own business (Houldens) on the market and in 24 hours, it had been sold.

“What you are saying is ridiculous and outlandish. All you are doing is damaging this town.”

Coun Barker told Coun Aron he was “out of order” and demanded an apology before council chairman Fiona Martin stepped in to halt the row escalating.

However, the pair were involved in another verbal spat soon after, this time in a dispute over traffic enforcement officers.

Coun Barker revealed he had approached two officers after they were preparing to hand out parking tickets to vehicles owned by volunteers who were helping take down the town’s Christmas lights.

He described the action of the officers as “totally unacceptable” and said what they were doing “beggared belief.”

Coun Barker claimed that because he intervened, the officers left the scene without issuing any tickets.

However, Coun Aron said he had spoken to one of the vehicle owners who had told him Coun Barker had “overstepped the mark” and inflamed the situation.

He said: “They (the officers) did not - and would not - have handed out any tickets.”

Coun Barker demanded Coun Aron retract his comments and Coun Martin was again forced to intervene, telling both councillors their behaviour was not acceptable.

Coun Matthew Wilkinson said if Coun Barker’s version of events were true, he deserved to be congratulated.

Coun Barker left the meeting soon after.

At the end of the meeting, councillor Lynda Baker read out a statement, criticising Coun Barker’s comments in a recent letter published by the News.

Coun Baker alleged some of the comments in the letter were “very close” to defaming other councillors, including herself.

She said Coun Barker had been very disrespectful to councillors and had contravened the council’s media policy.

Coun Barker has previously been reported to ELDC by fellow councillors but says he was cleared of all allegations following a lengthy investigation.