Uphill traders criticise Lincoln Castle revamp and summer events in annual survey

Businesses in uphill Lincoln have given a surprisingly negative response to a survey assessing the impact of major tourist events this summer.

The survey, conducted on behalf of the Bailgate Area Guild, received responses from 73 businesses in uphill Lincoln from the top of High Street to just beyond Newport Arch.

One of the most striking responses was the perceived negative or neutral effect that the revamped Lincoln Castle had had on independent retailers, with only 42% reporting that the castle reopening had been favourable, and many claiming that they had been “squeezed” by the changes.

Councillor Colin Davie and Councillor Nick Worth celebrating the opening day of Lincoln Castle after a £22 million revamp. Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

Councillor Colin Davie and Councillor Nick Worth celebrating the opening day of Lincoln Castle after a £22 million revamp. Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

Lincoln Castle was reopened to the public on April 1 after a £22 million project had restored the attraction to its former glory.

The castle has received hundreds of thousands of visitors in the following months, and was given a royal seal of approval by Princess Anne in June.

It has also hosted a range of spectacular events, such as Britain’s Got Talent winners Diversity and Festival 800 celebrating eight centuries since the signing of Magna Carta.

Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

The survey acknowledged that businesses valued the increase in footfall but were concerned that the dramatic increase in castle visitors had not benefited trade.

Concerns were raised that cafés and restaurants near to the castle had benefited more than others.

Well-attended and popular events such as the British Cycling National Road Race Championships also came in for criticism from retailers, with some claiming that trade was down by 40% on the Sunday.

Up to 30,000 spectators visited for the race, which according to the county council boosted Lincolnshire’s economy by more than £2 million.

A repeated argument from traders was that events such as this, combined with graduation ceremonies, drove out local trade.

One respondent said that they felt that the Bailgate was treated “as a film set and tourist venue,” which detracted from its “special character.”

Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

Another constant criticism raised by traders was the parking provision in uphill, with suggestions for improvements including subsidies on a Sunday, a pay on exit policy, and cheaper prices.

The park and ride shuttle bus to Lincoln Castle and the lack of communication about road closures in advance was also claimed by traders to negatively impact on their business.

Despite this, some events were well received, such as the Magna Carta weekend, 1940s weekend and the Steampunk Festival.

Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

Linda Wardale, owner of Yellowbellies and Chair of the Bailgate Area Guild, said: “The new Lincoln Castle and the Magna Carta celebrations have been fantastic for putting the city on the map but the impact on small businesses on a daily basis has not been as positive.

“Some businesses such as hotels and those in prime locations have benefited, but a lot of independent retailers are suffering from car parks full of tourists, which means that locals from the city and neighbouring villages aren’t visiting us as much.

“A lot of the time, the tourists are just bypassing our shops and going straight to the castle, so the benefits in trade haven’t necessarily been felt.

“I think it’s only fair that everyone has a slice of the pie and benefits from the changes.”

Councillor Colin Davie, Executive Member for Economic Development at Lincolnshire County Council. Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

Councillor Colin Davie, Executive Member for Economic Development at Lincolnshire County Council. Photo: Steve Smailes for The Lincolnite

Councillor Colin Davie, Executive Member for Economic Development at Lincolnshire County Council, said: “Surveys, whilst important, only provide a snapshot of the moment they are conducted.

“Lincoln has had an amazing year and it has been hugely successful. I however recognise the critical importance of small independent retailers who provide the depth and quality of offer necessary to entice visitors to return, time and time again.

“The survey recognises that the Bailgate area requires a long term strategy and closer working with all the councils involved.

“I will be more than happy to work with the Bailgate traders to develop a long term strategy so that the independent shops can gain fully from all that is happening in our amazing city.”