Traders are outraged after council bosses appeared to wave the white flag to Springfields over its expansion plans – and are calling for urgent action to save Spalding town centre.
Members of the Spalding Town Retailers Association (STRA) were dismayed to hear that a crucial rule introduced to protect the town is seemingly being completely ignored by South Holland District Council.
We are committed to ensuring Spalding town centre is a vibrant retail location, benefiting businesses and visitors alikeSHDC spokesman
The council, however, says it is committed to ensuring the town centre is a vibrant retail location and that it remains the primary retail destination for Spalding.
Earlier this month it emerged that Springfields is set to grow by 20 per cent by 2021 – and by the same amount again in the following five years.
The Camelgate shopping centre is supposed to operate under a series of restrictions to avoid direct competition with the town centre, ensuring that trade isn’t drawn away from the heart of Spalding.
When Springfields was in the development stage, the council’s own planning documents warned that the outlet should not be permitted without restrictions ‘in view of the potentially adverse impact on the vitality and viability of Spalding and other town centres’.
Traders now feel let down by the lack of action to stand by this promise.
In recent years they have worked closely with senior council offers and MP John Hayes in a series of meetings. The agenda at these meetings was ‘How can we promote our town?’. Traders now want answers as to how the council’s actions fits with that agenda.
STRA chairman Darren Sutton said: “We need help to make Spalding a great town to visit – with a busy twice-weekly market, events all year round and clean, safe streets.
“We need to give a clear signal to investors that the town centre is open for business. Businesses are dismayed that South Holland District Council seems to be hoisting the white flag and simply surrendering to Springfields.
“What we need now is for South Holland District Council to clearly state its intent regarding the town centre’s future.”
Traders were also surprised to hear that the town centre is not deemed to have sufficient space for growth, unlike Springfields. This damning verdict looks set go into the South East Lincolnshire Local Plan and influence the future development of Spalding.
STRA members have, however, previously asked the council for its support to try to attract big names to the town centre, rather than stand by and watch them set up out of town.
Mr Sutton added: “We want South Holland District Council to be active participants in the success of our town centre, not seeking to close it down.”
• STRA’s legal advisor is investigating the council’s decision not to enforce an important planning regulation;
• STRA wants to know when the decision was taken not to enforce the Springfields planning conditions;
Traders would like councillors to have a public debate on the matter at the earliest possible opportunity.
A spokesperson for SHDC said: “We are committed to ensuring Spalding town centre is a vibrant retail location, benefiting businesses and visitors alike. This remains the primary retail destination for Spalding.
“There are opportunities for additional retail space within the town centre, however these are complex and require a longer term partnership approach, which we are seeking to develop. In the meantime we will continue to support any suitable retail proposals that come forward in the town centre.
“Springfields plays a complimentary role and attracts over two and a half million visitors per year, many from outside of the district. It is an important visitor attraction for South Holland and the additional proposed allocations will enable it to continue to thrive.
“It will continue to operate under the existing restrictions designed to avoid competition with the town centre. If evidence emerges of breaches to these restrictions, the council will take appropriate measures.
“There is the opportunity to comment on the proposals for the district contained in the South East Lincolnshire Local Plan when it goes out to consultation between April 10 and May 22.”
• What do you think? Is the council doing enough to support town council traders? What more could be done to boost the town centre? Comment here or email your letters to email@example.com