— additional reporting and photo by Elizabeth Fish
Heated debate erupted at the City Hall on July 14, as members of the Commons Advisory Panel met with the Lincoln Racecourse Regeneration Company (LRRC) to discuss the proposed plans for reinstating the racecourse on the West Common.
Chaired by Councillor Helen Heath, the 20 members of the advisory panel deemed LRRC’s plans to bring back flat racing to Lincoln as incomplete, noting that the company had few answers to the questions brought forward by the committee.
LRRC asking for ‘political willingness’
After making a brief presentation of their proposed plans, as presented on June 23 to the press, LRRC asked the Commons Advisory Panel for a 12-month lease of the area. During this time, they would carry an environmental impact assessment and a transport assessment for their project.
LRRC say these assessments would help the company further detail its plans for the racecourse’s viability. When the panel asked why would LRRC need a 12-month lease from the City of Lincoln Council, the company’s spokesperson Karen Rastall replied that this would basically mean “political willingness” for the project from the council.
Members of the Commons Advisory Panel debated whether LRRC truly needs such an agreement, questioning the feasibility of the lease. Some members argued that LRRC should have already carried out their two assessments, presenting the advisory panel with more complete information on their plans.
The meeting confirmed Karl McCartney’s involvement in the proposal, who is the Lincoln MP and a director of LRRC. McCartney was not in attendance at the meeting, as it clashed with his parliamentary schedule. LRRC also claimed that all its directors will not get any financial benefits from reinstating the Lincoln racecourse.
Strong feelings for common land
Around 40 members of the public attended the two-and-a-half hours-long Commons Advisory Panel meeting, with some resorting to standing outside the City Hall and listening through windows, due to overcrowding.
The general consensus between the public at the meeting was that reinstating the racecourse would not be beneficial to the city; it only would disrupt the use of common land and it would accentuate traffic problems in and around Lincoln.
Several attendees were very vocal with their disagreement toward the racecourse, and interrupted the panel’s debate on several occasions. Two of them even displayed homemade banners with their aversion toward the plans. One panel member also mentioned the public rally against the racecourse in the form of an online petition, called Hands Off Our West Common, now signed by 300 people at the time of writing.
The Commons Advisory Panel did not put to vote their response to LRRC, but only highlighted their concerns that the company’s plans are poorly detailed, needing further inspections by the Council Executive Committee.
Councillor Neil Murray of the Carholme Ward put forward a resolution which urged the City of Lincoln Council to reject LRRC’s plans and to reaffirm its support for the 1985 City of Lincoln Council Act, which protects all the commons from development. This resolution was deferred until the next public panel meeting on July 26.