Firstly, can I just confirm that last week Lee Novak completed his 30th start of the season.
On doing this, he has triggered an automatic extension of one more season here at Scunthorpe. I can only mirror what many of the fans have said and want to thank him for his continued professionalism and dedication to the football club. We as a football club must continue to focus on the remaining games with the same attitude and strive to win as many matches as possible, so we can move into next season with a stable squad. These current players now have the opportunity to establish themselves as the team to take us forward into the 2019/2020 season and further, which means there will be no let-up in commitment or drive in the remaining fixtures.
Over the last few weeks, I have yet again been linked with Blackpool FC, but as everyone can see there has been a sea of change at the football club and I wish the new investors and Directors all the best going forward, after such a traumatic period in their history. My involvement in Blackpool is as an investor in the town going forward and this week I had the honour to be included on a panel of local people and officials who met with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge at the Tower. We are building the first 5* Hotel ever to be built in the town, within close proximity to the Tower and investing nearly £20 million, which will create 150 jobs, a home for the new museum, which we hope will generate over 300,000 visitors to the site, conference, wedding and events rooms, fully equipped spa, restaurants and bars which include an extension to the already successful branded Wild West Diner.
In all, we are directly and indirectly involved with four of the key projects in Blackpool moving in a direction which will hopefully improve the quality offerings in the town and continue to give the 18 million+ visitors choice and the local community a huge boost. Our commitment has been rewarded with an £8.6 million loan from the local council towards the hotel and we can confirm that after an initial technical blip in the planning process our visuals and colour of the hotel has been approved by the planning committee as of Tuesday 5th March. This is an exciting time for us as a family and I am delighted to be involved in a forward and positive thinking council who have their town and economy at heart.
This brings me onto the planning update:
We still have no determination date, 19-20 weeks after the planning should have been completed and over 32 weeks since our planning applications were registered. This is not right and considering there were two applications we cannot understand why a simple outline planning permission for apartments can take this long as conditions are applied as the norm within the 13 week period? The main application for the stadium has also been delayed unacceptably and without explanation as all we get is “it’s process”, which I should state is certainly not the norm. We are including key tenants which I believe could be the reason for the delay and if so this will have legal ramifications in the long-term. We are being delayed unsatisfactorily and without explanation and despite trying I can’t get an answer from the leader, even though he stated he would take a look at the application, one that will show a long-term investment of over £50 million in the football ground site, improvement in stadium offerings, new starter housing (not on a greenfield site), new restaurants and facilities which will help the local community in what is a difficult time. This is a private investment in the town on top of the investment we have already injected into the football club and community over the last six years, so I cannot help but feel and indeed ask ‘why am I being treated differently to other applications and investors, when we have furnished all the details and requirements by law and on time?’
I have stated previously that in my opinion the Lincolnshire Lakes has been a disaster because of the leadership and I stand by that statement. A billion pound development that would have delivered a huge boost to a town, seemingly de-prioritised, put to the bottom of the pile and decelerated without any apparent justification due to an unprofessional approach by the leadership administration led by Rob Waltham. This is on the back of supporting a developer that has and ostensibly had no funds to take this project forward. Not only that, but there is still a question as to whether the council carried out sufficient and appropriate due diligence, along with the HCA, in ensuring a government grant of £25 million towards the purchase of the land (over 600 acres) was correctly awarded. There remains a question over the funding for the flood defences (£13 million plus) which should be linked to the building of houses on the lakes and not just to the improvement of those flood defences for the outlying villages, and we believe there should have been nearly 800 homes built by this time under that agreement. That money for the flood defences is for economic growth and not environmental issues, which there needs to be an explanation for.
Planning has been passed for those houses on Scotter Road and those 499 homes could and should be built now, along with the promised lakes and utilities for the Lakes project, committed to by the leader over a year ago. The reason they are not being built is due to the developer suspending the fund. Frankly it smacks of a shambles under the stewardship of Mr Rob Waltham, who has sought to obfuscate matters by regularly issuing nonfactual statements regarding these matters.
Recently, I have had serious concerns following statements made by Mr Waltham, in his capacity as leader, to various publications concerning my working relationship with local councils. which are factually incorrect and damaging. My solicitors in London have contacted Cllr Waltham twice via email in the last three weeks concerning this matter seeking his comments and requesting a retraction. In response, the only email received to date was an email stating he thought his office had sent on his reply and he would send it again immediately. To date, another two weeks on, we still have had no reply and find ourselves having, due to a lack of engagement from Cllr Waltham, to escalate this very serious matter. It is general courtesy to answer anyone in a reasonable time scale, and I am thoroughly disappointed (although unfortunately not necessarily surprised) with his attention to this serious matter.
Mr Waltham, as leader, is responsible for ensuring all public monies are spent lawfully in line with their distribution and for the benefit of the community. He and his council are responsible for public investment in the town and to improve not only the standard of living with that but to stimulate private investment into the town to generate jobs, with an aim to create a better place for all. Can anyone tell me of an individual who has invested more than I have in the town and wants to continue to do that, so why are we being treated so indifferently?
This is all unacceptable and I continue my call for a public enquiry into the Lakes project and an enquiry into the delay with our planning permission, which is 19 weeks over the guidance date for applications. I ask him to contact my solicitors in due course to answer the questions delivered to him three weeks ago, before we consider escalating this matter legally. Can he please give us a real substantive update about the lakes and our planning application, which is just sitting there waiting for determination!
I challenge Mr Waltham to a public debate, either here at the football club or at a venue of his choice with access allowed to the press and any member of the public, urgently so he can address my position that he and his leadership are responsible for the shambolic Lakes Project and that he be asked publicly to explain the delay, whether with our current planning application, without deflection to the EA, Highways or anybody else?
Timing is crucial to both us and to Mr Waltham, as he moves to be re-elected in May, an election which should not preclude him from answering those crucial questions which impact on the future of Scunthorpe as a town and the football club as an important part of that future. Do not dodge these questions Mr Leader. We are at such a stage of frustration now, that our only course of action is to engage the Ministers for Housing and Planning at the highest level, in this matter should our calls for action not be met.
I continue to support the football club and remain open and honest about where we are and how we are progressing, which is why the above statement is necessary and hopefully answers the questions Iron fans are continually asking me on a daily basis.
Up the Iron