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1,200 people sign petition to stop The Lawn in Lincoln being sold

By Lincolnshire Echo  |  Posted: October 07, 2011

  • SELLING OUT: Councillors, business people, Lincoln MP Karl McCartney and supporters show their concern about the proposed sale of The Lawn and Joseph Banks Conservatory in Lincoln.

  • SELLING OUT: Marie Diamond of Come to Life gift shop at Jospeph Banks Conservatory.

  • SELLING OUT: Dahlia McIntosh and daughter Truly sign the petition.

  • SELLING OUT: The Lawn in Lincoln.

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TRANSFORMING The Lawn complex into a first-class tourist attraction is something the city council admits it cannot afford.

The site of the former asylum in Union Road, Lincoln, is to be sold amid rising maintenance and running costs.

Included in the sale are the Sir Joseph Banks Conservatory – named after the eighteenth-century Lincolnshire botanist – shops, offices, café units and some parking spaces.

The west lawn will be kept by the council but the future of the south lawn, also a public space, is to be decided.

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People who run businesses at The Lawn and visitors are worried about the future of the complex if it becomes privately owned.

But Ric Metcalfe, Labour leader of the City of Lincoln Council, said the basis of the sale is not just the price.

"We are keen to protect the most- used public open spaces surrounding The Lawn, namely the west lawn and the recently refurbished play area," he said.

"This area, as well as much public car parking, will remain in council ownership.

"When we carry out the tender process, it will be in the best interests of the people of Lincoln and we will not base our decision to sell on price alone.

"Any sale will be subject to the leases of existing tenants who currently occupy premises at The Lawn.

"All the council's tenants at The Lawn complex have been notified.

"As required by law, we consulted widely on the sale of the south lawn, which is open public space, and members of the public had until September 15 to comment or object.

"We received no comments or objections and took the decision to sell this piece of land along with the buildings. With the exception of the south lawn, there is no legal obligation for a council to consult on a sale of its own premises.

"We haven't started marketing The Lawn yet, as we are in the process of putting together the sale package to include all legal, property, planning and financial matters."

More than 1,200 people have signed a petition to keep the complex, apart from the main building, in public hands.

"We know The Lawn needs investment, but that does not have to be at the cost of small businesses that operate here," said Stephen Smith, 39, who runs Sanctuary Café.

Visitor Dahlia McIntosh, 36, a mum-of-two from Alexandra Terrace, Lincoln, said the conservatory was one of Lincoln's heritage highlights and needs protecting.

"We live in a typical city property with a small outside space and we use this as our garden," she said.

"I'm not surprised they're going to sell it given how neglected it's become.

"I hope it will remain open and have some money spent on it."

Leader of the Conservatives Darren Grice said his administration's intention had been to re-invest £250,000 of the sale proceeds into creating a world-class tourist attraction.

A further £250,000 would be ring-fenced to meet future running costs until the site became self-sufficient.

"We are not against letting go of some assets, but it's a question of doing it well and engaging with the community," said Councillor Grice.

Victoria Whitworth, head of science at St Mary's Preparatory School, said she would like to see a sale clause to guarantee the conservatory remains open and has money spent on it.

"This is one of the few places in Lincoln that are free and it's a great place for families," she said.

"We also bring children from school here to tie in with topics, including a project about Australia."

Lincoln MP Karl McCartney said: "My worry is they are selling off more than they need to."

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  • Pete67  |  October 10 2011, 1:42PM

    It's funny how we couldn't afford all the mines and industries in the eighties, and so they were either closed or sold off. Now we're all paying though the nose for the things we once owned. Once it's gone someone makes a nice profit and as usual the People who owned them have to pay over and over again.

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  • madowl71  |  October 10 2011, 10:01AM

    Rather than slating the council (whatever their colour) how about some people coming on here and making some constructive suggestions. The Lawns is a mess, it is less than half full, almost nobody seems to be able to make a go of the shops there. The pub that used to be there is gone and whilst they do hold weddings etc. it probably comes nowhere near covering the cost of running the place. The Joseph Banks conservatory is now an eyesore as it has had no money invested (Ms Diamond can't be expected to do that!). I took some Australian friends round once and they were amazed because Banks is almost a national hero out there, I think they would be appalled now. I don't have an easy answer but someone has got to ask the hard question as to how the place can be made to pay for itself - that might, just might, mean selling it off with all sorts of provisos about public access etc. Anyone want to try and put a few ideas forward?!

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  • madowl71  |  October 10 2011, 9:58AM

    Rather than slating the council (whatever their colour) how about some people coming on here and making some constructive suggestions. The Lawns is a mess, it is less than half full, almost nobody seems to be able to make a go of the shops there. The pub that used to be there is gone and whilst they do hold weddings etc. it probably comes nowhere near covering the cost of running the place. The Joseph Banks conservatory is now an eyesore as it has had no money invested (Ms Diamond can't be expected to do that!). I took some Australian friends round once and they were amazed because Banks is almost a national hero out there, I think they would be appalled now. I don't have an easy answer but someone has got to ask the hard question as to how the place can be made to pay for itself - that might, just might, mean selling it off with all sorts of provisos about public access etc. Anyone want to try and put a few ideas forward?!

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  • Steve_Lincoln  |  October 08 2011, 5:07PM

    If they charged a fee for children to use the play area instead of allowing free access, it would help pay for the upkeep of the rest of the premises.

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  • Miss_Guided  |  October 08 2011, 1:13PM

    There really is some nonsense being spouted about this. Whoever was in control of the council would be faced with the same options. The Council, as a small district council, is under serious financial strain. It has no choice but to consider it's position and make changes. Mr Metcalfe seems to be very clear that they will not just sell to the highest bidder, but to the one who will also safeguard the legacy and apply appropriate protection to existing occupants. Why don't the occupants approach the council with a proposal? I'm guessing they have no spine for it or confidence. As long as they don't sell off the play area at the back (which my children use regularly), I see no problem with this.

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  • Miss_Guided  |  October 08 2011, 1:10PM

    There really is some nonsense being spouted about this. Whoever was in control of the council would be faced with the same options. The Council, as a small district council, is under serious financial strain. It has no choice but to consider it's position and make changes. Mr Metcalfe seems to be very clear that they will not just sell to the highest bidder, but to the one who will also safeguard the legacy and apply appropriate protection to existing occupants. Why don't the occupants approach the council with a proposal? I'm guessing they have no spine for it or confidence. As long as they don't sell off the play area at the back (which my children use regularly), I see no problem with this.

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  • Miss_Guided  |  October 08 2011, 1:07PM

    There really is some nonsense being spouted about this. Whoever was in control of the council would be faced with the same options. The Council, as a small district council, is under serious financial strain. It has no choice but to consider it's position and make changes. Mr Metcalfe seems to be very clear that they will not just sell to the highest bidder, but to the one who will also safeguard the legacy and apply appropriate protection to existing occupants. Why don't the occupants approach the council with a proposal? I'm guessing they have no spine for it or confidence. As long as they don't sell off the play area at the back (which my children use regularly), I see no problem with this.

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  • Carlos365  |  October 08 2011, 12:51PM

    The lack of Democracy: The Lawn sale as a Case Study ------------------------------------------------------------------ Mr. Metcalfe the so called Labour councillor, has demonstrated the crisis of democracy that our political system has generated. We see how a listed building, part of the heritage of the city of Lincoln is treated as a commodity, for sale with no qualms. No respect, to protection and no admiration of what the forefather of the city created to become a historic site for the city. You would expect that the Labour party will act differently. After all, is the Tories or so we are told, that can sell anything that belongs to the people to the private sector. As the Tory mantra goes "Private is Better" but do not mention the bail outs to the Bankers and bonuses and the failings of private pensions. Mr. Metcalfe and his elected buddies has gone the extra mile to keep this unjustified sale under cover and with a total lack of respect for the electorate, manipulates a sale with no formal consultation and with a lack of detail of what this proposed deal entails. We have seen through the years how the Lawn Complex has been abandoned. Slowly all the festivals, plays and other activities have been silenced. Many people in Lincoln didn't even know that the Lawn was a public place. Was it done on purpose? Or was it that public ownership of the Lawn didn't fit with the ideology that Private is Better?. It feels like they are desperate to get rid of it and transfer it to a property developers or some other wealthy corporation to make easy money on the back of the tax payer. Considering that the Lawn complex is priceless and that private investors want to buy it to make money then the question that arises is: Why the council wants to sell a property with a future? . Even the car park generates money. So, we are left with a political system and 2 parties with the same policies and the same capitalist ideas. The public ownership of places or institutions is discouraged in favour of greedy corporate interests that have not altruistic motives for the community. The objective is to make money as quick as possible and accumulate it in a few hands. The invention of the CUTS, caused by the greedy bankers, the councillor (Lab and Tory) have a wonderful excuse,m just the one they wanted. The transfer of assets from the public to the private sector continues at a faster pace, blame it on the CUTS. This has given way to a tsunami of Buying on the cheap, sacking people from their jobs and if that is not enough, the so called representatives of the people, are prepared to give bail outs, we our money to Bankers, so that they can carry on ripping us off with no legal limitations. The Lawn complex is just one, of many assets being transferred to private hands, in an orgy of greedy capitalism doing its worst before it collapses for good. And what about democracy? You have the right to vote, but bare in mind, you are always electing the same clones with the same mentality but wearing different colours. That is the crisis of Democracy we live in this country. The Lawn Complex is just another victim that brings up the rotten mentality and the lack of democracy of this political system.

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  • Andy612  |  October 08 2011, 10:38AM

    Where is this petition? I'd like to sign it. I will also send an email to every council member indicating my intense disatisfaction with what they are doing. I suggest that if others do the same and make it quite clear that the cost of their councillor's vote to sell The Lawn is loss of a public vote to renew their tenure as a councillor. I'll also point out that citing lack of money to develop the facility when they are about to spend almost half a million doing up their offices is taking us all to be idiots. ThorneyRay - I agree with you that there are too many voters in the City that blindly follow tradition without the foggiest idea of what they are actually doing. My Mum for one! She votes for what her Dad voted for because she "doesn't understand all that stuff and if it was good enough for him it's good enough for me!" Personally, I completely disagree with party politics at this level - I feel it permits abuse of office by making it too easy for idle no-goods to get their way no matter how nefarious it might be, and no matter how detrimental to the City it is. If a majority of the elected members were independant the council can still be formed by the majority political party but they'd have to work much harder to convince the other councillors to vote with them on issues such as this and we'd have a far better chance of 'good' prevailing overall.

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  • issytheone  |  October 08 2011, 10:05AM

    Ric Metcalfe, Labour leader of the City of Lincoln Council, said there is no legal obligation for a council to consult on a sale of its own premises. The council does not own the property they merely carry out the wishes of the people they are supposed to represent. It is high time we let them know that they are only employees of the people not dictators; similar to those that we have seen deposed in the middle east recently. they should be aware how flimsy their hold is on the reigns of power. Time to get off your high horse master Ric and listen to the people.

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