Town hall bosses have been criticised over a decision to spend £1.4 million relaying cobbles in a historic market town – for health and safety reasons.
Lincolnshire County Council has been slammed for forking out taxpayer’s cash on replacing stones with ones that are just 5cm thicker in Stamford.
The market town is famous for its picturesque buildings, which have featured in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice in 2005 starring Keira Knightley and was also the backdrop for 2002’s The Da Vinci Code and 1994 TV series Middlemarch.
Some residents blasted the latest move as a ‘scandal’ and ‘utter waste’, adding that the cost of laying the cobbles in 2008 was already £1.5million.
Red Lion Square in Stamford, Lincolnshire, was covered in tarmac until 2008 when cobbles were laid at a cost of £1.5million. Now, the county council wants to spend £1.4million replacing them
Stamford was used as the filming location for Meryeton, the fictional home town of Elizabeth Bennet, in 2005’s adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice starring Keira Knightley
With its fine Georgian buildings and winding streets, Stamford was an obvious location for the filming the 2005 period drama. It had previously featured in The Da Vinci Code in 2002 and Middlemarch in 1994.
The cobbles were laid at considerable expense in 2008 and now Lincolnshire County Council plans to spend £1.4million replacing them with stones that are 5cm thicker for health and safety reasons
Paving the high street is a controversial issue in the town. The local authority was previously accused of turning the Georgian town centre into an ‘eyesore’ by laying tarmac on High Street until cobbles were laid in 2008.
Now just 13 years on, they are facing further anger after councillors voted to spend £1.4m on swapping 10cm thick stones for ones that are 15cm in Red Lion Square.
Keira Knightly was nominated for an academy award for 2005’s Pride and Prejudice, which was partly filmed in Stamford, Lincolnshire
The council is spending the money as part of a repair scheme which began last November following reports of people tripping over uneven slabs.
Edwin Timewell posted on Facebook: ‘Didn’t it cost about £1.5 million to lay them ? What a scandal. After 13 years they need replacing.
‘Somebody should be held to account for an utter waste of funds allocated.’
Kendal Mills added: ‘The really annoying aspect of it is that exactly this scenario was predicted when the council insisted on putting the “cobbles” down in the first place.
‘They absolutely refused to listen to opponents and simply wasted council tax payers’ money in what amounted to little more than a vanity project.’
Red Lion Square was tarmacked until it was resurfaced 13 years ago in a £1.5million project to improve access to the town centre.
In 2018, the town had plans to tarmac over the cobbles, with 18 out of 20 councillors supporting the return to tarmac.
But on Tuesday night, members of a Lincolnshire County Council highways committee approved the plans to recobble the square.
As the decision was made, the mayor of Stamford, Gloria Johnson angrily interjected and said: ‘Why do Lincolnshire County Council never listen to the town council?’
‘We voted for tarmac. They said they were going to lay tarmac and now they are going for stone setts again.
‘Why do they never listen? Why do we never get what we ask for?’
Stamford was described by Sir Walter Scott as ‘the finest sight on the road between Edinburgh and London’ and poet Sir John Betjeman dubbed it ‘England’s most attractive town’
The Da Vinci Code in 2002, based on Dan Brown’s bestselling novel and starring Audrey Tautou and Tom Hanks, was also partly filmed in Stamford
Actresses Brenda Blethlyn and Talulah Riley played Mrs Bennet and Mary Bennet respectively in 2005’s Pride and Prejudice, pictured here on location in Stamford
Stamford has served as a filming location for scores of movie and TV productions, including Middlemarch in 1994 and The Da Vinci Code in 2002
Dad-of-one Ben Rose, 48, a marketing executive from the town, said: ‘The whole thing has been a joke from the start.
‘First they wanted to tarmac the square and now they are spending this staggering amount on replacing them with cobbles which are just 5cm thicker.
‘All to appease the health and safety zealots. It’s just ridiculous.’
Shop worker Mary Vurlan, 37, added: ‘First they made the High Street an eyesore by laying down tarmac, now they are spending a million quid replacing cobbles.
‘It was originally tarmac, now its cobbles, then they wanted to go back to tarmac and now its back to cobbles again – its like the hokey cokey with these lot.
‘God knows how much time and money has been wasted on this over the years.’
The historic Lincolnshire market town was the first town in Britain to be given protected status as a conservation area in 1967 and it is now a popular spot for TV and film locations
Rachel Power and Jonathan Firth also starred in period drama Middlemarch (1994), which was partly filmed in Stamford
Burghley House, one of England’s finest stately homes, is situated just outside Stamford and was used as a filming location for Netflix TV series The Crown
Tory Councillor Richard Davies, Lincolnshire County Council’s executive member for highways, said ‘To save money, time and disruption in the future, we’ll be replacing the current stones with thicker setts and a stronger underground foundation.
‘This will not only make the surface more robust by preventing cracking and shifting of the stones, but also maintain the current aesthetic of the square and Stamford generally.
‘As with any other major improvement project, there will inevitably be some disruption on local roads once work is underway.
‘However, I want to assure residents and businesses that we’ll be doing our very best to keep traffic moving and to maintain access to all shops and businesses.
‘We will also work to ensure local roads are fully clear ahead of and during the 2022 Burghley Horse Trials.’
Plans to use tarmac in the high street were voted in favour by councillors in 2018 but have also been controversial due to the town’s heritage status
In 2018, the town had plans to tarmac over the cobbles, with 18 out of 20 councillors supporting the return to tarmac, but on Tuesday, the county council’s highways committee opted to replace the cobbles
Earlier in the meeting, resident, Mary Patrick, said she had fallen on the cobbles and threatened the council with a ‘no win, no fee’ claim if she ended up with a broken hip.
She said: ‘I am asking every councillor in this chamber who tried to get the square tarmacked to do something.’
Other residents reacted on social media where one commented: ‘I wonder if the council will ever listen to the people who they are supposed to listen to?’
Another added: ‘They have absolutely no interest in what the people of the town wants at all.’
A third put: ‘Why they ever chose to waste money replacing it with these cobbles, that have never been fit for purpose, is beyond me.’
Contractor Eurovia will carry out the work in a project that could take up to five months.
The historic Lincolnshire market town was the first town in Britain to be given protected status as a conservation area in 1967.
Stamford was described by Sir Walter Scott as ‘the finest sight on the road between Edinburgh and London’ and poet Sir John Betjeman dubbed it ‘England’s most attractive town’.