Leading the anti-racecourse campaign

Emile Van Der Zee jogs, plays tennis, and goes for strolls in the evening on the West Common. His 8-year-old daughter takes horse riding lessons, and his 4-year-old son just loves playing tennis with his dad on the Common.

Both his children learned to ride their bikes in the area, without having to be worried about traffic. Emile Van Der Zee (pictured with his partner Kerstin Meints during a stroll on the Common last November), like many other Lincolnites in the area, has a strong connection to the West Common.

But when The Lincoln Racecourse Regeneration Company (LRRC) unveiled plans to reinstate flat racing in the West Common, Van Der Zee realised that he won’t be able to enjoy the area like he does now. So he felt like he had to do something about it.

Van Der Zee (47) has set up an online petition, now signed by over 300 people, and a website in support of his campaign, Hands Off Our Common. His site was viewed over 1,400 times in a day, and it only came online four days ago. His campaign to keep horse racing off the West Common, by any means, is uniting the community.

“I have never been involved in a demonstration or the organisation of an action or a petition,” said Van Der Zee in an email interview. “The plans as submitted by LRRC have mobilised many people like myself, who feel strongly that LRRC have been using steamroller tactics to push through immature plans without listening to what real people have to say.”

LRRC’s plans have been put to the Commons Advisory Panel on July 14, and they have been deemed as incomplete at a lengthy City Hall meeting. The panel will hold another meeting on July 26, to make recommendations to the Council Executive Committee, who will have to decide whether the plans will get the go-ahead.

“How is it possible to trust a company that is not able to formulate a clear proposal about the economic benefits of a racecourse?” asked Van Der Zee, who is also a Psychology lecturer at the University of Lincoln. “The LRRC’s plans are extremely vague,” he said.

“The way I see it is that the business expertise that the LRRC have demonstrated and the disrespect they have shown for the people in Lincoln is a recipe for failure.

“The problem is that if the LRRC are able to get access to the West Common, and if they are able to do some building on the common, there may be a generation of residents in Lincoln who will have to pay the bill for the clean-up operation afterwards,” explained Van Der Zee.

Emile Van Der Zee’s campaign is gaining momentum. “We have kicked off a letter-writing-campaign this morning to make Senior Executive at the City Council aware how strongly people feel about this issue.

“We have been approached by people wanting to contribute who do not have access to the Internet, and have volunteered to distribute flyers, or help in other kinds of actions. I’m sure you’ll hear from us in many different ways.”

Hands Off Our Common has one final goal, explained Emile Van Der Zee: “We hope that the City Council will see that the plans for a racecourse are built on wishful thinking and not on any serious planning, and that our campaign against a racecourse will no longer be necessary.”