Would-be Spalding developer Richard Garvie sets out his case and addresses some of the many concerns and criticisms raised by Lincolnshire Free Press and Spalding Guardian readers....
When I first moved to Spalding in 2009, people used to ask me why I decided to move to the town. I remember visiting Spalding as a child, and also passing through on the way to our annual holiday in Skegness. Spalding was a great little town, with friendly people and a positive atmosphere. Although the town is still has the friendly people, things are getting gradually worse and people are losing the optimism they once had. Shops are closing, leisure facilities have gone and congestion in and around the town centre is getting worse due to poor planning decisions in the past and the impending invasion of freight trains.
I started talking to South Holland District Council around two years ago with the view of wanting to do something positive for the town. My vision: a regeneration company funded by private investment. Regeneration companies are a hot topic, with many failing to achieve the grand targets that they set themselves at a huge cost to the public purse. My enthusiasm comes from seeing first hand how Catalyst Corby transformed my home town of Corby into what is essentially a completely new town. It has a brand new civic hub, brand new shopping area with big retailers such as Primark and TK Maxx, brand new football stadium, a direct rail link to London, a multi million pound motor racing circuit and conference centre / showground, a fleet of modern buses providing a vast public transport network in the district, thousands of new homes and tens of thousands of new jobs. Catalyst Corby received seed capital from the Government and then went on to generate hundreds of millions of pounds worth of investment for the town, in my opinion that was a good use of taxpayer money.
In Spalding, we don’t have the option of securing Government cash. I knew that developers wanted to bring a supermarket to town, and my idea was that if we had to have another supermarket in Spalding, why not do it with a not for profit company to generate the £2.5m needed to create the regeneration company. The council would also get it’s £5m of s106 money, the town would get a new cinema that would also be funded from the development and the landowner would be paid no more than the going market rate for development land. Not one person would take more than what they are entitled to, and it would all be in the interest of the town and the community. In terms of financial benefits for myself, I would not be paid anything other than the money that I have spent on this project and making it a reality.
So what is my motivation in all of this? I want to do something positive for the town, but I also want to build a career for myself in doing something that I enjoy. I am passionate about Spalding and the people who live here, and having spoke to many residents in the town, I feel I have a good understanding of what they want. The vast majority of people will support any development that leads to employment creation and further investment in the town, but more importantly than that, the people of the town want to see physical progress. People are fed up of seeing millions of pounds of developer contributions going into pots of money here and there, instead they want to see a new cinema, a new leisure pool with flumes, investment in the town centre, employment creation and enhanced public transport.
What I have proposed at Holbeach Road is contrary to national planning policy, nobody is saying it isn’t. At the same time though, there is justification for the development through employment creation, provision of leisure facilities and wider economic benefits such as investment for a new town centre manager, CCTV network, subsidy for the South Holland Centre, money for town centre events and marketing for the town. In addition, there is proposed investment in the road network around the A16 and Holbeach Road to ensure traffic flow moves much better through those areas. This scheme is just one small part of my overall vision for the town, and whether it goes forward or not, I can feel comfortable that at least I have tried to move the town forward rather than sitting back and waiting for others to do it. We have generated a lot of discussion in the last year or so, and this has led to a number of exciting plans in the town which will come forward with or without a proposed regeneration company.
Finally, many of the people who volunteered to get involved with the proposed regeneration company quickly disappeared when they realised that there would be no financial rewards or benefits for them by getting involved. What this town needs is more people who are prepared to things for the love of the town, not for what is in it for them. Regardless of whether a supermarket is built at Holbeach Road, Spalding is at a crossroads. The town is dying and needs significant investment in the town centre, employment creation and leisure facilities. Unless that investment is forthcoming very quickly, we may miss the opportunity to deliver the things that we need as a community, ans we will forever rely on Peterborough and Boston for what I would consider to be the basics in life.