Town plan sparks council row

Snarl up: Traffic backs up at the town's main junction but is a new link road really viable?
Snarl up: Traffic backs up at the town's main junction but is a new link road really viable?

A row has broken out in Horncastle regarding the content of a key planning document that will help shape future development of the town.

The Town Council has spent thousands of pounds on a Neighbourhood Development Plan (HNDP)

The plan - which has been sent to East Lindsey District Council for the first in several stages of a lengthy approval process - has been slammed by some critics because it does not include specific sites for housing.

Now, former town councillor Richard Barker has also questioned whether it includes provision for improvements to the town’s infrastructure. to accompany any large scale housing developments.

At a recent town council meeting, Mr Barker clashed with town councillors who helped draw up the plan.

He said town and county councillor Bill Aron had indicated major new developments - like the Crowders scheme for 500 homes - could only be considered for approval if improvements were carried out to local roads and other services first.

Mr Barker said he was concerned that Coun Aron’s comments were made after the HNDP had been finalised and submitted to ELDC.

He asked whether any demands for improvements had been included.

Coun Aron told him improvements were part of the plan but when asked by Mr Barker, he said he could not supply any specific details

Mr Barker replied: “I’m sorry, but that answer is simply good enough.

“Does the plan include provision for improvements and if so, what improvements?

“The people of this town deserve to know what is in the plan and that their very real concerns about future development have been duly noted.”

Coun Aron said copies of the plan were available to read for anyone who was interested.

Mr Barker was also assured by Coun David Roark - another member of the HNDP working group - that the plan did include calls for improvements to services.

Coun Roark said he would supply details for Mr Barker ‘at a later date.’

Speaking after the meeting, Mr Barker said he found it worrying that considering how important the plan was, no-one appeared to have any accurate infirmation available.

He said he would press for answers at next month’s meeting.

Mr Barker also claims his initial forecast that more than 1,300 new homes could be built in Horncastle has been proved to be right - despite early scepticism by some councillors.

By implication Cllr Aron’s concerns were valid at these times, so there was plenty of time to include statements in the HNDP. Correct me if I am wrong.

The implication from last night is that Cllr Aron’s infrastructure concerns came after the HNDP was complete. That does not fit with the facts above or the reference to these concerns being expressed for a long time. A clear statement on this is key to establishing what the HNDP might have missed as a vital part of its dialogue.

I would also ask that as there is no definitive timescale for the ELDC Local Plan being in place what effect does this have on the validity of the HNDP if it is ratified? A clear statement is required from the HNDP Working Group

I formally request that this is an agenda item for the December Council meeting so that the Town can be fully aware of the ongoing timescales and processes to be followed as well as clear answers to the above questions.

It was rather worrying that no one on the Working Group had the accurate in formation to hand bearing in mind the importance of the HNDP being ratified providing the Inspector approves it.

On the issue of the 10 outstanding points, which I gave you an uptodate list and current position I would again wish a clear item by item commentary from the Town Council as soon as possible.