I read with interest of (South Holland District Council leader) Coun Porter’s policy change reported in last weeks’ Spalding Guardian, to target derelict properties and vacant plots. In Long Sutton I can think of three sites that the council could look at.
All of these are crumbling listed buildings in our town’s conservation area.
Development proposals by two entrepreneurs to convert two of our most prominent buildings (The Bull and The Crown and Woolpack) to hotels, restaurants, spa and housing have been largely thwarted by the labyrinthine processes of the council and remain a blot on our landscape, blighting our town centre.
The developers’ proposals are largely supported by local people, will bring valuable tourism, jobs and footfall for our town centre, provide around 35 new homes and bring about a dramatic visual improvement to the Market Place.
Yet both properties remain empty and crumbling after years of negotiations with Mr Porter’s officers.
Another listed building has now virtually collapsed. The council has done nothing to exercise their powers to protect the building and a proposal by the Civic Society met with derision from the councils officers who insisted we spend a small fortune on professional fees to prove to them that the building was beyond economic repair.
An hour and a half round trip by any council professional officer would demonstrate to them the state of the building (which has no roof, the walls are leaning outwards and a willow tree trunk has cleaved the rear wall) and save the £25,000 in fees to state the obvious. We wanted to do it up and with a bit of encouragement from the council, could have done so.
A forward thinking, energetic and pragmatic council would embrace the development proposals of local business people who want to invest in our community, especially in times of recession.
We have no evidence from our dealings with the council that that they have any of these attributes.
The backdrop to this story is the councils new housing company, which is looking for land. To be a successful developer you need a strategy, commercial awareness, finance, pragmatism, energy, expertise and resilience.
You also need to work with supportive planning and legal officers. Good luck with all of that Coun Porter – you will need it!
Chairman, Long Sutton and District Civic Society