Former Caistor Mayor Steve Millson says there have been “no clandestine meetings” over the future of the Old Co-op in Market Square.
Coun Millson gave last week’s council meeting what he called the “facts regarding Caistor Town Council’s involvement in the Old Co-op restoration”.
His lengthy statement followed claims of “clandestine meetings”.
Coun Millson recalled how as far back as 2013, Caistor Town Council had explored the possibility of buying the old Co-op.
However, the council “for a number of reasons”, decided not to pursue the project,” the former mayor recalled.
At last week’s meeting, Coun Millson detailed various meetings over the issue.e named names and gave dates of several meetings and outlined what progress was made.
This included details of an April 22 meeting involving the Caistor Heritage Trust, Lincolnshire Heritage Trust, Coun Mackenzie and the clerk.
“The clerk said that as nobody, at that stage, was prepared to take the project forward it was not possible to apply for grant funding for a feasibility study.
“However, there were funds of £11,000 remaining in the High Street Innovation Fund but the town council would need to agree to it being used for this purpose,” he said.
Coun Millson went on to stress: “The sole purpose of all the meetings has been to endeavour to keep the Old Co-op restoration project alive and to try and find ways to bring this to fruition for the good of the town and its people.
“There have been no clandestine meetings, everything has been reported to and sanctioned as appropriate by council.
“I strongly urge this council to focus on the positive benefits the Old Co-op project could yield for the town as a whole and not get deflected by who knew what about what meeting.”
He added: “It is my opinion that division within the council, on this matter, has hindered the progress of this project so far, so much so that we have a situation where Caistor Town Council are being sidelined completely.
“I believe that we have a duty as the town’s elected body to ensure that 25% of the market place is developed for the benefit of the town and, as such, I urge the council to resolve that we must have a seat at the table to act as a consultant, offer advice and, of course, report back.
“I personally could not envisage a situation where I would be involved in a council that is prepared to leave this crucial development to outside bodies where we would have no influence regarding its development.”
Members agreed to Coun Millson’s suggestion that they think about the Co-op and discuss its future and the council’s involvement at the next meeting in July.
However, Coun Millson was opposed by Coun Michael Galligan who warned against too much council involvement in the project.
Coun Galligan said it should simply “act as a conduit to encourage the development of the Co-op”.
Summing up, Mayor Mackenzie added: “It’s obviously going to be a big debate. Please think seriously about it.”
Coun Deborah Barker added the council had some money left over that could be used on other high street businesses.
But, noting the impact of the abandoned store, she said: “We are losing business left, right and centre.”