Make or break meeting for Caistor Heritage project
The former Co-op building in the town’s market place has stood empty for more than a decade and over the past seven years Caistor & District Community Trust (CDCT), which is now the owners, has developed a plan to renovate the complex of buildings.
The Trust, which was set up specifically to promote and protect local heritage and hold land in trust for its community, has secured more than £2million towards the project.
Earlier this year, the Trust asked Caistor Town Council to facilitate a Public Works Loan Board loan of £750,000 to complete the funding needed; now it is up to the residents of Caistor to agree for the loan to go ahead.
In a statement, town clerk Michelle Moss said: “Taking out a loan of this size is not something the council can enter into lightly.
"Government guidelines dictate that we need to follow a due process, including assessing the impact of the loan on the required precept (raised via residents council tax), due diligence to ensure the loan will be repaid and setting up safety nets in the event that CDCT fails to make repayments.
“CTC has a responsibility to all residents of the town to ensure the right decision is taken.”
The Trust has described the project as a ‘unique opportunity’ and says although the Town Council will be taking out the loan, it will be the Trust paying back the loan from the income generated by 2-4 Market Place.
Trust chairman Neil Castle said: “While we appreciate the council has its due processes, it is disappointing it has taken so long to get to this point, when the loan was agreed in principal back in March.
”We are not asking for residents to find the £750,000; it is not coming from the council tax, the money will come from the government.
"Our business plan has been reviewed by The National Lottery, The Architectural Heritage Fund, West Lindsey District Council, Lincolnshire Heritage, Co-ops UK, and The Department of Levelling Up and Communities, amongst others. The Trust is confident we have a robust mixed stream of income to fully meet our commitments. However, we appreciate the council has to put contingency plans in place for further down the line just in case.”
Plans for the renovation and rejuvenation of the 2 to 4 Market Place buildings were approved in 2021 and will see a mixture of retail units, office space, holiday lets and a community meeting space.
The total cost of the project is around £3million, with funding coming from a number of organisations, as well as from the opportunity to purchase shares in the project.
However, this still left the project short, which is why the loan was requested.
Mr Castle added: “Without the PWLB funding, the other funders will withdraw their funding offers and the project will be cancelled.”
The Council has secured ‘First Charge’ on the completed building, meaning the council would be in strong position to recover funds if the project failed and the property is sold, helping to protect the interests of Caistor residents.
The council is calling on residents to go along to the public consultation, which will take place this Thursday, November 23, starting at 7pm in Caistor Methodist Chapel, when the council will advise residents on the implications of taking up the loan on behalf of Caistor and District Community Trust.
A meeting of the Town Council will take place immediately afterwards, with the view to making the decision about the loan.
The council’s full statement can be read via their Facebook page and more information on the 2-4 Market Place project can be found at caistorcommunitytrust.org .