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Council hears financial truth about St Martin’s Park development in Barnack Road, Stamford

The redevelopment of a former factory site has been thrown into doubt - despite a council having poured £10.5 million into the project.

Five years after buying the land off Barnack Road in Stamford, South Kesteven District Council has not laid a single brick towards the development of 190 flats and houses, a 150-home retirement village, and business premises supporting more than 500 jobs.

These were the promises made when the council spent £7.5 million in March 2019 acquiring the site and signed a deal with Burghley Estates, which owns adjacent land.

The site was demolished in 2022
The site was demolished in 2022

Together they were going to create a 14.7-hectare development to be known as St Martin’s Park.

At an extraordinary meeting of the district council this afternoon (Thursday, February 8), members were due to debate the future of the project in private due to its ‘sensitive financial nature’.

But before the public and press were excluded, Coun Phil Dilks (Ind - Deeping St James) described the report they were about to discuss as ‘depressing’, adding: “This council has spent £10 million on St Martin’s Park and that is rising by an extra third of a million pounds every year.”

The front office, visible from Barnack Road
The front office, visible from Barnack Road

He criticised the former Conservative leader of the council Kelham Cooke for ‘bragging’ that the income from St Martin’s Park would pay towards a new Deepings leisure centre - something the council had announced in 2019, along with replacement leisure centres in Stamford and Grantham, and a refurbishment of Bourne Leisure Centre.

Plans for the new and improved leisure centres have since been dropped due to a lack of cash.

Coun Dilks went on: “Kelham Cooke continued to pull the wool over people’s eyes and when the Stamford Mercury asked him last year about the project he said ‘it’s a fantastic deal’.

“Now we know we paid more than £1 million more than the site valuation.

A site plan for St Martin's Park in Barnack Road, Stamford
A site plan for St Martin's Park in Barnack Road, Stamford

“Not a brick has been laid and the only people who have occupied St Martin’s Park were a group of travellers.”

Coun Dilks said he regretted the press being excluded and “looked forward to the day when whatever decision we make is made public”.

Similarly, Coun Max Sawyer (Ind - Stamford All Saints) said he would vote against holding the discussion in private. Despite this the majority favoured keeping the full financial details secret.

The former Newage building, which was more recently known as Cummins
The former Newage building, which was more recently known as Cummins

Paul Wood (Ind - Viking) defended the past actions of the council, saying decisions over the purchase of the land were made ‘in good faith’ and that “looking back with hindsight is wonderful”.

He added that lessons would be learned.

After having paid £7.5 million for the factory site, South Kesteven District Council has paid a further £1.5 million to clear it of former Cummins and Newage factory buildings during 2022.

One with architectural value - the 1904 Building - has so far been left standing, and part of adjoining offices at the front of the site have had to be retained too, to protect the 1904 Building from collapse. However, permission has now been won to knock down all the buildings.

It is costing the council £14,000 a month to retain the electricity supply ready for homes and businesses at St Martin’s Park.

After the meeting, council leader Ashley Baxter (Ind – Market and West Deeping) said: “A preferred solution has been agreed today based on a number of options set out in a commercially sensitive – and therefore private – report presented to the council meeting.

“We will continue to work hard with our partners to get the best result from the scheme both for the residents of Stamford and other council tax payers in South Kesteven.”

A spokesperson for the district council said: "The masterplan for development remains as previously approved. The 14.7-hectare St Martin’s Park will include a designated commercial area, a mixed-use area, a retirement village, a range of residential properties including affordable homes, and areas of green and open space.”

Planning permission for the site was granted in October 2021 with the decision notice being issued in March 2022.

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