— Updated on July 6 with *petition numbers and **LRRC statement
Dozens of Lincolnites have signed an online petition against the proposed racecourse on the West Common. The petition, titled Hands off our West Common, aims to make those “who have decision-power aware that this is not a change that we want for the local community.”
116 Lincoln residents have signed the petition at the time of writing, with more expected to join as the link to the petition is now propagated through the Twitter and Facebook social networks.
The Lincoln Racecourse Regeneration Company (LRRC) unveiled on June 11 its proposal for the horse racing course in the West Common area, which would include the renovation of the existing Grandstand, construction of new stable blocks and associated buildings. The course would bring investment of over £12 million over the next five to seven years, say the developers.
‘Not in the public interest’, say petitioners
“What a disgrace this would be, I can’t believe the [City] Council would ever contemplate this ridiculous idea, there are plenty of courses in the area, Market Rasen being the nearest not 15 miles away. The West Common is far to precious to lose,” commented David Joyce on the petition.
“There are so few green spaces in the city already, we need to maintain this area so that families can continue to use and enjoy it. There are other racecourses within travelling distance of the city; another one is completely unnecessary,” wrote Carol Callinan. “This is not in the public interests and would ruin the scenery of this wonderful part of the city,” Dominic Burford added.
“Racing on the West Common has zero business potential. If we change the use of this beautiful resource, the land will become littered with houses, shops and filling stations,” commented Naomi Marriott.
LRRC anticipates that racing will only take place a maximum of 16 times per year, at various times of the week, specifically between March and October, with up to 5,000 people attending per event. The full document of the proposal (PDF) was made available to the public on June 11.
“I have read the company’s proposal and believe it will have a devastating effect on the West Common. The development required, by way of buildings/roads, etc. will result in a major loss of natural environment, and the disturbance on race days (including litter/clearing up afterwards) will be significant. The Lincoln Commons are a precious asset for Lincoln and its residents and significant development like that proposed by the LRRC should not be allowed,” argued Mike Norman.
“I remember the races as a kid,” recalled Kate Bartlett. “Our house was near one of the jumps. It was annoying not being allowed to play on the common during race meetings. […] It would be nice to see the Grandstand put to good use again. It does look very sad and shabby. However horse racing would not benefit most of the people who live in the West End.”
West End residents are also worried about the reduced parking facilities during racing days. “I live next to the West Common and like many other West End residents have been forced into paying for Residents Parking, which is only operational on working days, Monday to Friday,” said Kevin Smith.
“The plans for race meetings to be held only on Sundays and bank holidays mean that parking will be extremely difficult to impossible unless the Residents Parking scheme becomes applicable on these days as well. I also walk on the Common every day and sincerely hope that I will not be prevented from doing so if the proposed plans go ahead,” Smith added.
City Council and MP await feedback
“It is important that people from across the city have their say on the proposals to investigate the feasibility of bringing professional flat horse racing back to Lincoln,” said Lincoln MP Karl McCartney, who initially backed the racecourse plans.
“The valid points raised in this petition (as in any other) would rightly be taken up in any feasibility exercise for any proposal that would effect a major change within the City of Lincoln,” McCartney added.
“As the MP, I want the best possible outcome for the majority of my constituents, and would support any inward investment to our city that might offer economic regeneration, transport infrastructure improvements, generate employment and improve the area in which it was based — but obviously only if it also adhered to the planning regime and various regulations that governed any such proposal.”
“The City of Lincoln Council’s position about this proposal has been made clear since these ideas were first muted. Like any organisation, the Lincoln Racecourse Regeneration Company is entitled to put forward a proposal for the council’s consideration, however I must stress that the proposal has not been commissioned by the City Council,” said John Bibby, Director of Housing and Community Services.
“We have made it clear to the company concerned that we are not in a position to commit any financial resources to the development of these proposals. The council is currently studying the proposals and is seeking comment from the Commons Advisory Panel. The next step is to take the findings to the council’s Executive. Following this, a formal response will be made to LRRC.
“There are a considerable number of factors that the City Council will no doubt need to take into consideration before deciding whether it enters into formal discussions with the LRRC, or any other organisation, to re-open the racecourse.
“A petition against this scheme can be formally presented to the council, as is the process for any other petition. If the council decides it is minded to further explore this proposal, any development will need to be subject to extensive public consultation and the provisions of the Lincoln City Commons Act including consideration of any necessary planning consents,” Bibby concluded.
An extraordinary committee meeting of the Lincoln Commons Advisory Panel has been arranged for Wednesday, July 14, beginning 6pm. This meeting will take place in Committee Rooms 1, 2, and 3 at the City Hall.
The discussion will be between City councillors who are members of this panel, and serving committee members who represent various bodies in the West Common, and a representative of LRRC. Like with other council meetings, the general public are not allowed to take part in the discussions. Councillor Helen Heath is one of three serving City councillors for Carholme Ward who will be chairing this meeting.
Racecourse company has no definitive answers**
“We understand that many residents have specific points they would like us to answer but unfortunately we are not able to answer them at the moment because we simply do not know the definitive answers,” said Karen Rastall, the spokesperson for the The Lincoln Racecourse Regeneration Company.
“It is essential that we carry out these detailed plans to do so, and for us to commit to spending the tens of thousands of pounds to achieve this, we need to be assured that the Council would be prepared to consider granting a lease subject to a full planning consultation.”
“We are currently awaiting discussions with City of Lincoln Council to determine if they would consider giving us the opportunity to work up a clear detailed plan, which will address the many issues relating to a project of this scale, including such matters as an environmental impact study, and a full traffic feasibility study for our preferred location,” Rastall added.