Decision expected on future of the county’s heritage services

Heckington Windmill following the restoration.
Heckington Windmill following the restoration.

The county council looks set to press ahead with its money saving plans to step away from a number of its heritage facilities.

This is despite around four out of five of those responding in a recent consultation on the plans objecting to the intention to close the Usher Gallery in Lincoln and use it as a base for weddings and the coroner’s service.

The results of the recent consultation on heritage services are to be discussed on Tuesday at a scrutiny committee, ahead of a decision by the council’s executive.

In January, the county council unveiled a proposed blueprint for a more “sustainable” heritage service, which would save the authority £750,000 a year.

This includes ambitious plans to redevelop The Collection Museum in Lincoln to expand its exhibition space, dramatically improving the visitor experience.

1,104 people shared their views on the plans during the subsequent 10-week consultation, the results of which have now been revealed.

The response towards the majority of the proposals was generally neutral, and so most recommendations remain unchanged.

However, 827 of those taking part were against the changes suggested for The Collection and Usher Gallery which involved transferring the art collection into The Collection and using the gallery building for other purposes.

Coun Nick Worth, executive member for heritage, said: “We know there’s a passionate minority who want to keep the Usher Gallery as it is, but we have to take the decision that’s best for the county as a whole.

“So using the building as a base for the registration, celebratory and coroner’s service remains the recommendation.

“That said, the Usher Gallery Trust and Historic Lincoln Trust have shown an interest in taking on the gallery and we are open to that.

“So while things are moving forward, we will continue our discussions with them to see if they can come up with a workable proposal.

“At the same time, it is recommended that the changes planned for our other heritage sites are put in place, including the return of Gainsborough Old Hall to its owner, English Heritage.

“Of course, any changes at the Usher Gallery would need to be approved by the gallery’s owner, the City of Lincoln Council.

“If the city council blocks both options currently on the table, they would need to come up with alternative plans to avoid closure of the building altogether as under the proposals we would be handing back to them responsibility for their collections.

“We look forward to receiving the comments of the Scrutiny Committee on the proposals.”

The county council will continue to own Heckington Windmill, which is managed by Heckington Windmill Trust.

The results of the consultation will be discussed by the council’s Public Protection and Communities Scrutiny Committee on Tuesday July 23.

The meeting will take place at the Emergency Planning Centre, South Park Avenue, Lincoln LN5 8EL. The meeting is open to the general public.

A final decision on the future of the council’s heritage services is expected to be made by the executive on Tuesday September 3.