Jubilee Park row has left ‘a dark cloud’ over Woodhall

Jubilee Park in Woodhall Spa
Jubilee Park in Woodhall Spa

A leading member of Woodhall Spa Parish Council has quit after claiming he felt “threatened, bullied and intimidated” following the latest twist to the Jubilee Park saga.

David Hill, a former district councillor for 12 years and a parish councillor for seven, resigned in the aftermath of an highly-charged meeting last Wednesday.

Mr Hill had backed a move to hand over control of the parish-council park to a newly formed charitable company.

Two weeks ago, councillors had sparked a revolt by some residents after they voted 6-5 to remove a key clause regarding a 99-year lease agreement for the park.

The clause gave councillors some control over future planning applications. There are claims councillors had also voted to remove the clause at an earlier meeting last month.

However, in a stunning move, the clause was re-instated at the meeting last week - apparently after the council took legal advice and spoke to East Lindsey District Council’s monitoring officer.

Initially, the parish council had intimated the 6-5 vote would stand and could not be legally challenged for six months.

But councillors voted 6-4 to reinsert the clause, despite strong protests from Mr Hill and fellow councillor Tim Peacock who was one of the five interim directors of the charitable company.

The interim directors immediately pulled out of a deal which had taken 18 months - and hours of legal wrangling - to set up.

Mr Hill said: “It is with some sadness that I have tendered my resignation. The council made certain decisions with which I profoundly disagree.

“After the meeting, I was spoken to in a way that made me feel intimidated, bullied and threatened.”

Mr Hill described the process to hold what he claimed was a third vote on the clause as unethical but vowed to continue to fight to secure the future of the park.

Within seconds of last week’s vote, the parish council set up a new company to run the park. It will be headed by four parish councillors who are interim directors.

Those directors stress they will be totally independent of the parish council and hope to secure charitable status for the company.

In a statement, they said: “We would welcome anyone with an interest in the future of the park to come forward and assist with the project.

“We will consult with the community on plans to take the park forward and an election for directors is planned for the autumn.

“We are committed to safeguarding the future of the park and will work with the community to achieve that goal.”

A spokesman for the interim directors of the initial company branded the developments as “a disgrace.”

He said: “How can you have one vote, then another and then another - until you get the result you want? How is that democratic? It is a disgrace.”

Sources suggest the directors are considering their next course of action but will not hand over data to the new company.

A group of residents who were angry about the clause being removed, have cancelled plans for an extraordinary parish meeting.

Group spokesman Daphne Robinson, a former parish councillor, revealed she intends to stand as a director of the new company.

Mrs Robinson defended her role, saying she had not acted out of spite or questioned the integrity or motives of the directors.

Jubilee Park will be on the agenda at a parish council meeting next week - and at the annual parish meeting a week later.

In another twist, parish councillor Lucy Wells says she has been cleared by ELDC’s monitoring officer after two complaints that she should not have voted last week because of alleged business interests at the park.

It is not clear how Friends of Jubilee Park - who have raised thousands of pounds for the complex - will react to the latest developments.

Craig Leyland, ELDC’s deputy leader and local ward councillor, backed comments made by Coun Peacock that the saga had left a “dark cloud hanging over Woodhall Spa.”

He said he was concerned the number of lifeguards at the park’s pool could be cut to save money and questioned how directors would plug a predicted £20,000 shortfall in income for 2014-15, due to ELDC’s grant being reduced.