Yes, lessons learned over Red Lion Quarter flop

A DAMNING report into the failings of Spalding’s Red Lion Quarter project has satisfied an independent auditor that lessons have been learned.

The 69-page final review by the task group of six South Holland district councillors speaks of a “vision to improve the viability and vitality of Spalding town centre”.

But it highlights the council’s tendency to look at the positives rather than “challenge the viability of the project” – a mistake which led to its sale to Boston College for £2.4m.

The review said the total project cost was difficult to ascertain, but evidence suggested the capital spend was “in excess of £7.5m”.

Chairman of the task group Coun Bryan Alcock said it was a pity the authority “so nearly got it right” but unfortunately failed to pick up the warning signs throughout the process.

He said: “The result could have been so different”.

When the report was submitted to the Cabinet meeting in July, it said the project had regenerated a run-down part of central Spalding.

However, the task group said there was little evidence anyone at officer or member level “critically challenged or stress tested the feasibility study or the business plans.”

The report said “this had potential dangers, not least that they did not have the necessary professional expertise to manage the project”.

There did appear to be concern expressed over the viability of the Food Hall that closed within six months. But the report said “the majority of the directors appeared to have confidence in its success”.

Among the report’s recommendations, it was suggested the council should “adopt a policy requiring any business plans, feasibility studies or like documents to be independently stress tested by professionally qualified persons”.

District auditor Tony Crawley told the council’s governance and audit committee on Wednesday he was happy the council had learned from its mistakes.

He said: “The report shows the council has realised what went wrong.

“They have given me examples of what actions they are taking and I am happy a positive has come out of a negative.”