Traders are impatient for the district council to deliver on promises to support the vitality and viability of Spalding town centre.
Last March, during preparation of the Local Plan, South Holland District Council (SHDC) stood accused of waving the white flag and surrendering to expansion at Springfields while turning its back on the town centre.
Gavin Allmand, a former chairman of Spalding Town Retailers’ Association, said the inspector scrutinising the Local Plan was “sufficiently concerned about the vulnerability of the town centre” to expansion at Springfields that she asked SHDC “to provide a policy and assurances” on its commitment to the town centre.
The council then made new pledges in the Local Plan to support the town centre but traders say actions speak louder than words, and they want the council to spell out in detail how it will deliver on those policies.
Mr Allmand said: “The policy gives reference to partnerships being created and traders want to be a full member of this partnership and work with the council and other partners to create the vision and an achievable plan for the town centre.”
He said the council has for some months employed a strategic projects manager and a regeneration officer with the suggestion that “part of their focus is on the town centre” but neither has contacted the town retailers’ association.
Mr Allmand said: “Traders are now asking what is the council’s strategy and vision for the town centre, and what is the job descriptions of these new recruits.”
Another bone of contention is the future of a large area of land between Market Place and The Crescent, accessed off Draper’s Place, and now used for parking.
Part is privately owned, and subject to a planning application for 35 apartments for over 55s, while another chunk is owned by SHDC.
Mr Allmand says traders would prefer to see shops with flats above – as the site lies in the town’s retail heart – and they also want to see an imaginative, retail use for the adjoining SHDC land.
He said: “There is no development brief, zoning or plan for this (council-owned) land, which is extremely important, and it is adjacent to a further parcel of land currently subject to a planning application for retirement apartments.
“The lack of any apparent plan for this brownfield site in the very centre of our town would suggest that our council does not have any vision or strategic plan for our town centre.
“It is time for the council to provide the commitment and resources to deliver on their policy. Traders are keen to see some action from the council as opposed to just words and are ready to commit to being an integral partner to ensure that the town centre is supported and remains viable for its members and the primary retail destination for South Holland for its customers.”
Spalding Civic Society’s projects and campaigns officer John Charlesworth said: “We all want a vibrant town centre – lively events, on-the-stones auctions, music, cascades of flowers, trees, and council support for imaginative initiatives.
“The society’s particular wish is for a really handsome, interesting centre – hence our Market Art Project for sculpture and artworks celebrating Spalding’s market heritage – where it will be enjoyable to shop, work, visit and meet.”
The council hasn’t commented on the strategic projects manager and regeneration officer roles, although it says its Growth and Prosperity team will be in touch with key partners in the coming weeks.
A district council spokesman said: “The council is keen to enhance the vibrancy of Spalding’s town centre as part of its plans for the overall growth of the town, and wider growth ambitions for the whole district.
“This commitment has been recently reaffirmed during the formal Local Plan examination process. The council will engage directly with partners, listening and talking with retailers and other local business people, the civic society and other bodies such as the county council.
“The Growth and Prosperity team will be getting in touch with key partners in the next few weeks with a view to moving matters forward together”.
“The current planning application relating to Draper’s Place will be determined at planning committee in due course. This seeks permission for the works of demolition and the construction of residential development for the over 55s. The submitted scheme provides for its own access and parking arrangements and does not include land in the ownership of the district council.
“The council will be assessing the potential of its own land to deliver wider benefits alongside the development of a strategy for the town centre as a whole.”
• The Local Plan policy is about supporting the vitality and viability of Boston and Spalding town centres.
It says: “Boston and Spalding town centres will continue to be the primary destinations for retail, entertainment, markets and events and where their rich environmental qualities can be promoted, enhanced and appreciated.
“The councils will consider the opportunities to support and extend the offer of the town centres as destinations through the following:
“1 Supporting the redevelopment of land within the town centre boundary that can provide for retail and other town centre uses in accordance with the sequential test;
“2 Enhancing the existing sites and ensuring changes to premises having regard to the significance of their heritage assets and the special interests of the Conservation areas and their settings;
“3 Enhancing the public realm through improvements to public spaces, accessibility and signage;
“4 Promoting town centre events;
“5 Providing interpretation and promotional information;
“6 Supporting proposals that seek to maintain the viability and attractiveness of the weekly markets;
“7 Encouraging opportunities to support temporary uses in vacant premises in the primary shopping areas.”
The policy also says: “The councils, responsible agencies (eg Lincolnshire County Council), landowners, Historic England, business operators and all other interested parties will develop partnership working to ensure the vitality and viability of the Boston and Spalding town centres.”