A business leader says a new town centre manager is more important for Spalding’s economy than a water taxi mooring or bandstand.
Phil Scarlett, president of Spalding and District Area Chamber of Commerce, spoke out after the chamber’s £240,000 bid to fund a town centre manager for four years from Section 106 cash sank to the bottom of a pile of six projects when point-scored in a panel’s paper to the district council cabinet.
This happened, he says, after the project was devised with advice from council economic development manager Mark Stanton.
The top three scores were for a new water taxi mooring at Chain Bridge Forge (£13,000), a bandstand at Ayscoughfee (£67,100) and a joint TV marketing campaign for the town centre and Springfields Retail Outlet (£50,000). Fourth was Tulip Radio’s community studio (£29,130) and fifth a refurbished aviary at Ayscoughfee (£25,000).
There’s only £207,935 in the pot and Spalding Town Forum will recommend how the cash is spent. Forum chairman Coun George Aley has asked Spalding residents to name their favourite projects.
Mr Scarlett said: “Our application for a town centre manager scored poorly despite us receiving guidance from Mark Stanton, economic development officer for South Holland District Council and Breckland.
“Mark was fully aware of our application and he advised us on the period of appointment and the amount of money to include.
“Furthermore he told us that out of the projects, ours, for a town centre manager was his ‘preferred option’.
“There is no doubt in my mind that political pressure was exerted in the process otherwise how could the panel consider a bandstand or aviary in Ayscoughfee Gardens or a new water taxi mooring at Chain Bridge Forge of greater need than that of the appointment of a town centre manager?”
Mr Stanton told the Spalding Guardian: “We will be discussing those issues directly with the applicant. It would be inappropriate for us to discuss individual applications publicly because we respect the confidence of the applicants.”
A council spokesman said the scores were to give councillors a guide on projects which best met the criteria for funding and were not recommendations.
l Last week’s story on the S106 cash mistakenly said the chamber bid was for £79,000.