July 19, 2022 8.00 pm

Council’s Sleaford enterprise park plans increase by £14m

A 25% increase in price tag

North Kesteven District Council will have to find an extra £14 million towards its planned Sleaford Moor Enterprise Park following increased construction and flooding costs.

It comes as opposition members called for more scrutiny after the authority approved plans to spend £6.5 million of its reserves on the first phase of the proposals.

A meeting of the full council on Thursday saw members vote 28-7 in favour of the spend, which will replace an original plan to borrow the money.

Bosses believe the move will save £1.1 million annual costs while generating a “small income”.

However, the meeting also showed that the overall cost has spiked from £56 to £70 million – an increase of 25% – after running into issues around construction costs – linked to issues including COVID lockdowns, international supply issues and the war in Ukraine – along with work to tackle flooding issues.

Opposition councillors called for more scrutiny on Thursday, believing the decision had been put to council too quickly and had not properly considered the future impacts of the ongoing cost of living crisis, along Brexit and those above.

There were concerns the initial phase would not generate a predicted £317,000 income and that companies had not yet expressed an interest.

In a statement on Monday, Lincolnshire Independent Councillor Marianne Overton accused costs of “spiralling” adding “full consideration of the proposals” was needed.

Despite the more than 30 minute discussion, she said councillors had “no opportunity for proper scrutiny nor audit” before making the final decision

“Such a significant spend needed careful and inclusive discussion and consideration to ensure council funds are being spent wisely,” she said.

An amendment to the proposals to send the paper for scrutiny was lost 22 to eight.

Supporters said action needed to be taken quickly and warned costs could increase further.

The funding would come from unspent New Homes Bonus and other reserves and councillors voted by 23 in favour to seven against.

Council leader Councillor Richard Wright said following the meeting that the authority was taking “bold and decisive action” to ensure Sleaford Moor Enterprise Park was “brought forward in a viable and financially responsible way”.

He said there was “significant interest” in the site.

“By not taking any such action and instead delaying the first phase of Sleaford Moor Enterprise Park to see if borrowing costs and general market volatility were to improve, we expect we would have seen costs increase further,” he said.

“In leading by example and investing these monies in this way rather than continuing to keep them in our reserves, we are ensuring we can and will deliver on the aspirations of Sleaford Moor Enterprise Park and the economic growth and jobs it will provide in the immediate future, for our residents, businesses and our district’s economy.”

A spokesperson for NKDC said the authority was in the process of reviewing funding options and are planning to produce a revised business case around the extra £14 million in the near future.

This would go forward to council for consideration.