£450,000 for town centre regeneration

MORE than £450,000 of Boston Borough Council money is to be spent on regenerating the town’s market place.

Councillors approved the funding at a special meeting of the council on Monday, despite opposition from some members.

It forms part of a £2.7 million investment package now planned for the town centre.

Coun Richard Dungworth, portfolio holder for regeneration, described the scheme as ‘a once in a life time offer’.

“Boston needs putting back on the map,” he told members. “We have an opportunity to really improve the town and confidence in it by investing at this crucial time.”

The scheme brings together £1.1 million from the European Regional Development Fund, £200,000 from Lincolnshire County Council and £250,000 from the now defunct Boston Area Regeneration Company (BARC) (of which, £90,318 is originally borough council money).

A further £150,000 of leftover BARC funds has also now been allocated for restoration work in the town centre in order to release up to £500,000 from English Heritage to spend over three-five years.

The timing of the investment proved an obstacle for some councillors, however.

Coun Anne Dorrian questioned the ‘wisdom’ of considering the item in isolation, with a number of big council spends on the horizon.

Coun Jim Blalock went further still, saying the scheme - which dates back to 2004 - is out of touch with the current economic climate.

“This project is misguided,” he said. “It wasn’t misguided at the time, but it’s misguided now. Finances now are hugely different. This project will make other capital projects more expensive.”

The report that went before councillors stated ‘emerging plans’ would see the number of parking spaces reduced (from 110 to 30, Coun Anne Dorrian stated), re-surfacing work, removal of street ‘clutter’ and the return of the ‘famous’ Five Lamps feature.

There were pleas from numerous councillors to back the scheme, despite the risks. Conservative member Coun Peter Bedford said the town risked staying ‘in the dark ages forever more’ without the investment.

Coun David Witts, of the Boston Bypass Independents, acknowledged the economic challenges, but added: “This is not the time to dress down your shop window.”

The spend was passed by 16 votes to four.

l Is the council right to spend the money? Email david.seymour@jpress.co.uk