Row over fate of Usher Gallery
Lincoln city and county at odds over money saving plans, reports Patrick Kelly
Lincoln’s Usher gallery is at the centre of a major row between the city council and Lincolnshire County Council.
Lincolnshire wants to turn the gallery into an events and wedding venue, moving exhibitions to the nearby Collection, the county’s archaeology museum. County councillors say the move is necessary in order to make savings and concentrate its resources on a series of cultural "supersites", including Lincoln Castle.The county also plans to hand back control of Gainsborough Old Hall to English Heritage.
But Lincoln City Council has accused the county of tearing up a 45 year old agreement without proper consultation. City council leader, Ric Metcalfe, said, “We have only just received the county council’s business case.” He added, “The county have acted ina pretty heavy-handed fashion on this. They want to export their desire to make savings on to the district.”
Other changes will see Discover Stamford, Ellis Windmill, Burgh le Marsh Windmill and Alford Windmill handed over to others, possibly local trusts.
But Museum of Lincolnshire Life, Battle of Britain Memorial Flight Visitors Centre and Heckington Windmill will remain in county council hands.
County councillors said that heritage services need to “offer more” and become “more commercially minded”.
Campaigners from Save Lincoln’s Usher Gallery have protested against the plans. A 4,000 signature petition has been sent to councillors and 827 out of 1,104 responses to a consultation exercise reject the proposals. Catherine Wilson, of the campaign, said she was “dismayed” by the proposals. “All the sites are important, to divide them in this way seems artificial and unnecessary. They all contribute to telling the story” she said.
County Council leader, Martin Hill, denied there hadn’t been adequate consultation said council would still listen to other organisations ideas for the Usher. “If city council have got better ideas, fine, we’ll let them do it,” he said. “We’re not going to stay in their way.”
He added that they had been having discussion with the city council for more than two years.