Council u-turn on Wickham Gardens plans

— Updated with SWINGS statement.*

City of Lincoln Council have agreed to keep uphill Lincoln’s play area Wickham Gardens open, despite original plans to sell it.

The announcement came on November 23 at a Full Council meeting in the Guildhall, which was open to the public.

The council will deliver the recommendation to the Executive to keep the play area, donated to the public in 1914.

As previously reported, parents grew concerned when they noticed play equipment disappearing earlier this year; there is now only a climbing frame.

The council responded that the play area cost £3,000 to maintain per year, and that there was another play area in the Lawn, across the road.

The local community went on to create SWINGS, which put together a petition to keep the gardens open for use.

Leader of action group SWINGS, Victoria Douch, delivered the petition to City Hall, which was signed by over 1100 people.

“As a mother of three and regular user of Wickham Gardens, I was really shocked earlier in the year to discover the majority of the play equipment had been removed.

“I called the [City of Lincoln] Council to find out why and was told Wickham Gardens was being disposed of.

“There were two small adverts in the back of the local paper about the closure, but no other users knew about this closure and there had been no notices displayed on site.

“We formed community group SWINGS and we all have an interest in ensuring Wickham Gardens remains open to recreational facilities for the whole community both young and old.

“We are aware of the Council’s play strategy, where 11 play areas will be redesigned.

“However this strategy saw Wickham Gardens score highly as a play division for children and young people.

“What process led to Wickham Gardens being disposed of?” Douch asked.

Leader of the City of Lincoln Council Darren Grice said: “The initial decision to sell the land at Wickham Gardens was made so that the council could gain capital receipt.

“As we investigated the sale, restrictions became apparent, and within the last month we found that the sale would produce no capital receipt for the council.

“With the original reason for the sale gone, we saw no purpose in pursuing it, so have agreed to refer the matter back to the Executive in order to overturn the decision to sell.

“Whilst the SWINGS campaign was held within a similar timescale, this had no bearing on our decision to retain the land.

“The situation will remain as it has been in recent times, with no investment in the land by the council.

“We would facilitate an agreement between the [Westgate Primary] school and the community about use of the land, but this is where our involvement will end.

“Our Play Strategy is very clear about where investment will be made in the city.”

* Douche was delighted that Wickham Gardens would be kept open for its intended use as originally outlined in 1914.

“I wholly believe that thanks to the immense support from the local community, petitioners, our local Councillor Donald Nannestad, the Dean and Chapter of Lincoln Cathedral, the Friends of Lincoln Tank, the Civic Trust and the Bailgate Guild, and the fact that we joined forces to show the strength of feeling in the area, we managed to shame the Council in to overturning the original decision.

“We fully appreciate that these are difficult times, and that the Council need to make budgetary savings, however, this green space in central Lincoln is priceless to the local community.

“If it had been developed on as the Council originally intended, it would have been lost forever.

“We will now be working to obtain external funding to replace the play equipment, and to work towards returning Wickham Gardens to a vibrant recreational space for the whole community to enjoy.”

Photo: SWINGS