Move Louth Forward held their first public meeting last week in what was expected to be a feisty debate, following friction between the group and members of Louth Town Council. However, on the night, the overall result was a passionate, strongly argued and constructive debate about the future of the Cattle Market and supermarket provision in Louth, between representatives from Move Louth Forward (MLF), Keep Louth Special (KLS), ELDC councillors, and members of the 60-strong audience.
The meeting was chaired by Mablethorpe councillor Tony Howard, who said from the outset: “Whatever anybody is saying, whether it’s something you like or dislike, I want respect for the speaker at all times.”
Nevertheless there was very little heckling throughout the meeting, with Coun Howard only felt the need to intervene once.
Following the welcome and introductions, Alan Mumby of KLS opened proceedings by thanking MLF for inviting the group to speak at the debate, and said: “I think that the two groups can work together, as we can move Louth forward and keep Louth special.
“We might disagree how we do it, but that’s democracy. We don’t live in North Korea.”
Louth Town Councillor, George Horton, spoke from the audience and said it was “very nice” that the two groups could work together, whilst condemning the “adverse comments” made about the town council on the MLF Facebook group.
Panel member Richard Aron, speaking on behalf of MLF, responded with his thanks for “some civil dialogue from the town council, finally”.
Mr Aron added: “We are a democracy, we are not an institution, so each of our group can say as they feel and they represent what they say”, leading to shouts of “If it’s the truth” from Coun Horton. Chairman Coun Howard stepped in and reprimanded Coun Horton, saying: “I’ve been very firm on this, everybody has had their chance to have their say uninterrupted and that’s how it is going to continue.”
Richard Aron responded that the rapid growth of the MLF Facebook group - which gained over 1,000 within just one week of its creation - had taken the whole town by surprise and had engaged local people who had been “disengaged” from local politics for the past ten or twenty years. Later, referring to the comprehensive Nathaniel Lichfield report on Louth Cattle Market, MLF co-founder Alan Grantham said: “The report shows that 32 per cent of revenue is lost mainly to Grimsby and Cleethorpes.
“It says that in order to claw back these main food shopping trips to other towns, a large food superstore will need to be provided in Louth.”
ELDC councillor Adam Grist, on the panel, said that “overtrading” by the supermarkets already in Louth, such as Morrisons and Co-op, currently stands at around 40 per cent, and that Louth could therefore “probably accommodate a new store.”
Coun Daniel Simpson, chairman of the Livestock Market Scrutiny Panel, was in attendance on the night and was invited to speak to the panel and the audience. He said that if the current Cattle Market site was sold, then an alternative Cattle Market would have to be built and ready to open immediately.
Coun Simpson said that bids for the current Cattle Market site are currently being considered, and a decision should be made by July, although it could be delayed until the autumn.
Coun Adam Grist responded: “I think we have a duty to make a decision sooner rather than later. Kicking it into the long grass again is not really an option.”
Chairman Tony Howard closed the meeting by thanking those in attendance, and added: “There is a passion in Louth of which I am quite envious, coming from Mablethorpe.”