£6.5m centre: Red Lion or white elephant?

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THE new £6.5m Red Lion Quarter has been dubbed a “white elephant” that lacks the “wow factor” and does not sell enough Lincolnshire produce.

THE new £6.5m Red Lion Quarter has been dubbed a “white elephant” that lacks the “wow factor” and does not sell enough Lincolnshire produce.

The food hall, which opened amid much fanfare a week ago, has been at the centre of a storm of criticism because many people feel too many of the products on the shelves come from abroad and from other areas of the UK.

Local businessman Pete Williams, landlord of the Punchbowl pub, has questioned the long-term future of the project, saying the town will be left to pick up the pieces when the promised visitors fail to materialise.

He said: “I think it is a white elephant and something has been lost in translation.

“Even before it was built there were doubts but now it’s open it turns out it is only halfway to what they promised.

“It was supposed to be a showcase for local food producers, but when you go in, there are a lot of national brands and not enough stuff from around here.

“I went in there with the intention of spending some money to support it, but really struggled to find anything I wanted to buy.”

But Richard Baggaley, general manager of the new centre, said all attempts had been made to sell as much Lincolnshire produce as possible, and claims 65 per cent of the stock is local.

He said: “Unfortunately you can’t source everything from Lincolnshire – the food hall would not pay its way if you only put local produce in there.

“We can’t please everyone but that’s reality. It’s just unfortunate that people don’t understand.”

Phil Scarlett, a former retail director who has been offering advice and suggestions to Red Lion Quarter bosses, admits that the centre currently lacks the “wow factor” and has a way to go before it lives up to its promise of being a showcase for Lincolnshire’s food heritage.

He said: “I think there has already been an admission that it isn’t 100 per cent what they want it to be.

“I think people anticipated an indoor market place and it’s definitely not there yet but it can be made into that.

“I, probably like most people in Spalding, was sold the Red Lion Quarter on being a showcase for Lincolnshire produce, which is why visitors would go there, but at the moment I don’t believe it showcases it very well.

“From the customers’ point of view it doesn’t have the ‘wow factor’ and that is what they have to do.

“It is right to stock products from elsewhere, otherwise there will be gaps in the product range, but they need better signage to flag up the Lincolnshire products and the local produce has to be predominant.

“It’s not difficult to fix and I have offered to help to find more suppliers.

“They have already acted on some of my suggestions so that gives me heart that they do want to make it right.”