The future of the Grandstand is uncertain

Over 50 Lincoln residents met at the Grandstand Community Centre on October 12 to discuss potential uses of the iconic building in the future.

For the past few weeks, Emile Van Der Zee, leader of the campaign to stop the return of horse racing on the West Common, has been collating ideas for the project.

Van Der Zee introduced this summer a website for the Grandstand, which aimed to encourage residents to contribute with ideas to redevelop the crumbling building.

The meeting on Tuesday night was the culmination of the project, but did not nail down an answer over the burning questions regarding the future of the Grandstand.

Alongside Van Der Zee (pictured L-R), Councillors Helen Heath, Robert Parker, Karen Lee, and Neil Murray were on the panel at the meeting fielding questions.

Abandoned racecourse plans

Despite promises to return with fresh plans to reinstate horse racing on the West Common, the Lincoln Racecourse Regeneration Company (LRRC) halted any further activity, according to reports.

Faced with stiff public opposition, the company said its original plans to return with amended plans for a racecourse on the West Common will not materialise.

The change of mind comes after LRRC withdrew at the last moment a proposal for the site put forward to the City of Lincoln Council in June.

With no more proposed plans to develop the Grandstand, Lincoln residents have been looking into a more community-friendly use of the building.

Many ideas, but few feasible

In total, over 30 ideas were submitted on the Lincoln Grandstand website, but only a few were actually discussed at the meeting on Tuesday.

Among those discussed were the use of the Grandstand as a hub for small businesses, an art project, a day nursery, a restaurant, or as a conference centre.

These ideas however are not feasible due to legal restrictions via the 1985 Lincoln Commons Act, which does not allow for such uses of the building.

Gently crumbling for many years

Residents expressed their dissatisfaction over the state of the iconic building at the meeting, which last received an overhaul over 15 years ago.

Around £97,000 was spent on maintaining the Grandstand over the last three years, but some felt the building could do with more maintenance work.

A resident proposed to use people on anti-social behaviour orders to repaint the building, while many suggested removing the fencing from the viewing gallery.

The councillors present said they would put these ideas forward to the City of Lincoln Council over the coming weeks.

Helen Heath also said improving the look of the Grandstand is a priority, as it looks ugly, and some form of decorative boarding would really help.

“We know there is a community group that is looking at ideas for the Grandstand, and seeing if any are viable,” said City Council Deputy Leader Marc Jones.

“The main issue that needs to be addressed is if the ideas fit in with the Commons Act, which dictates what can and can’t be done with the Grandstand.

“We’ll be happy to meet with community members to discuss ideas and see if there is a positive way forward,” Jones added.

Uncertain outcomes

“It was interesting to see that at least some new ideas have come forward, and that they can be added to the existing ones we have,” said Van Der Zee.

“Up to this morning I was very positive about some of the [legal] aspects, [but] I am not very optimistic anymore to a good legal solution to the Grandstand.

“The default option is a community centre, which is what it is now.

“I had hoped that the building could have a more sustainable use until it generates an income, bring jobs to the local community, but we just have to accept the way it is.”

“We’re a long way from making any firm decisions yet,” said Helen Heath, “but the important thing about this was consultation.”

“I don’t think we’ve really come forward with anything solid,” said Karen Lee, “but it was something useful to do.”