The first steps have been taken in a bid to start a multi million pound project to transform the “filth pit” former Co-op store in Caistor Market Place.
Caistor Town Council agreed last Thursday to contact several architects, on behalf of Caistor Heritage Trust, about the cost of doing a feasibility study into the viability of the project.
The council estimated a study would cost up to £15,000.
Clerk Helen Pitman said there was £10,923 left from the town’s high street renovation fund and the rest of the money could be secured from grant funding, should councillors agree to proceed.
Mrs Pitman said a ‘community interest group’ made up of town councillors, members of the public and Lincolnshire Heritage Trust, would drive the project forward.
She said the Co-op would not be approached until the Heritage Trust had agreed to the funding for the renovation - and that this would be in about two years’ time.
Coun Mike Galligan said he “could not understand” why the council wanted to get involved.
Coun Steve Millson told the meeting: “A couple of years ago we got quite close to buying the building.
“We discovered that to get funding was going to take longer than expected - beyond the council’s remit.
“We backed off.
“It’s 25 per cent of the market square - it’s always been on the agenda.
“It’s in everyone’s interest to sort it out.
“It has a lot of possibilities - and had interest from businesses that wanted to go in there.
“Lincs Heritage Trust are the local experts in this field.
“They have done projects elsewhere, a £2m project in Horncastle.
“This will be of a similar ilk.
“We had meetings with the Heritage Trust and the Co-op.
“The council has organised this because it is in our interest to get things going - but once going we’ll have no active involvement in it.
“Before the council can do anything we need a feasibility study.”
Councillors questioned what could be done in the short term to improve the building, which has been described as an “eyesore” that is driving trade away from the town.
Coun Galligan said: “The maintenance of the building is an absolute scandal.
“The Co-op want the Caistor community to shop in the local Co-op but they’re going to leave the building left to the dogs.
“We should not shop there until they do something with the building.”
Coun Martin Sizer, the town’s postmaster, said the former Co-op building even had rats running around inside.
He said: “ It’s a filth pit. 25 per cent of the Market Place looks like a dump.”
The meeting heard how the Co-op had previously agreed to paint the building ‘as soon as the weather improved’.
The building has stood empty since the company moved into its purpose-built High Street premises in December 2010.
In recent weeks, one town businesse has closed and another is due to close - both blaming a lack of trade.
Some residents say the lack of trade is down to the “eyesore” former Co-op building.
All councillors, except Mike Galligan, voted in favour of town clerk Helen Pitman writing to architects to find out how much a feasibility study would cost.