Demands for investment in Holt sparks debate

Mary HamiltonWell-heeled Holt feels like a Cinderella town forgotten by council investment - but even a local councillor denies the town is being ignored.Mary Hamilton

Well-heeled Holt feels like a Cinderella town forgotten by council investment - but even a local councillor denies the town is being ignored.

A group of businessmen, councillors and volunteers is lobbying for district council cash to help tackle problems including parking shortages, street clutter, poor amenities and pressure on traders, which they say are choking off retail business in the town.

But Philip High, district councillor for Holt, said the town was already receiving investment to help it stay up to date.

Holt Town Council has pledged �5,000 to support the venture, and on Tuesday town councillor Rhu Bruce Lockhart petitioned the district council's cabinet for �25,000 over two years to draw up a vision for the town.

Speaking on behalf of the Holt Planning Group, he told councillors that townspeople felt Holt was low on the district council's list of priorities, partly because people see it as wealthy and able to cope alone.

'The district council has been aware of our problems for many years, but the strategic planning department has no plans to solve them,' he said.

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'Little wonder then that we feel aggrieved and make reference to the �150,000 of car parking revenues that disappear into your capacious coffers every year.

'We hear your explanations, but you will forgive us if we feel that they sound a little hollow.'

A letter sent to councillors before the meeting, pointed out that some traders had seen business rates increase by 35pc to 45pc, and the �25,000 requested to fund the plan represented just 8pc of the district council's income from Holt car parks in the same period.

But at the meeting, district councillor Philip High pointed to recent regeneration projects as proof that the town was still receiving help from the district.

He said the town had had �75,000 spent on public toilets and money allocated through the area partnership, adding: 'I find it sometimes very annoying when it is said that Holt receives nothing.'

But Michael Baker, a district councillor for Holt, said that although the town was not poor, it was important to halt the decline before it was too late.

'The problem we have is that we see all the major towns having vast amounts of money pumped into them, but the council seems to wait until these places are absolutely down at heel before they receive help.

'We are looking for some help to help ourselves before we slip into the mire.'

The council made no pledge of money, but district councillors will now meet with Mr Bruce Lockhart to discuss the possibility of forming a partnership with the town and county councils. He said: 'I am sure everyone is pushing in the same direction and they want to see it happen.'