October 26, 2011 11.20 am This story is over 147 months old

The Lawn sale: ‘Not a quick fix for tourism’

Wrong choice: A producer of a local theatre company questions the sale of parts of The Lawn.

Photo: The Lawn, which the Council aim to sell parts to the highest bidder in order to save money.

Richard Main

Richard Main is the producer of the Chapterhouse Theatre Company, a local business which regularly uses The Lawn’s premises. Main believes The Lawn is an assest to the city’s history, and is passionate about it remaining open to the public, believing the site could be bought back to use with investment. Read his argument below:

I have seldom become involved in the ins and outs of Lincoln politics, but the ongoing row about the sale of The Lawn is one of the few things that I genuinely think has a marker for the future of uphill Lincoln and as such, businesses, community groups and the general public should at least have the chance to join in an open and honest debate about its future before it is stripped from the public domain.

Errors by various councils have obviously been made regarding the management and usage of the buildings, made clear by the very fact that the buildings are now for sale. We should all see this as a great opportunity to talk about the structure of uphill Lincoln in terms of attractions to the west of the castle area and the development of the west of the uphill area for commercial and tourism purposes, and aim to rectify the mistakes of the past.

Many years ago, The Lawn had a thriving bars, shopping and theatre environment loved by locals and visitors alike. The early development of the gardens meant a steady stream of footfall to the site as well as many families bringing children to a much used play area. It has been the steady decay of this footfall, alongside the decrease in the variety of events at the site, which has gradually killed the broad usage and revenue streams, which helped maintain what was a wonderful asset to the uphill area. Closed off to the public with expensive parking, a run-down visitor area and what appears to a permanent building site at one of the main entrances to the site it is little wonder that the council think getting rid of the site is the best and only option.

Of course, one could argue this case for virtually anything in the city that doesn’t work at a given time or is a nuisance in the short term. The point that seems to be missed here is that the council, an elected and wholly temporary body, has a job to look beyond difficulties such as usage of the Lawn and should do their job of managing one of the most iconic and important buildings and areas in the county, let alone the city, on behalf of the public it serves.

The Lawn site is potentially, if we are to believe the future plans for the castle are to go ahead, one of the most important physical areas in the make up of the future of tourism plans for the city. It is on the west side of one of the most important developments the city has ever had. A million new visitors to Lincoln we understand are on the cards, bringing with them a huge revenue stream. What an opportunity The Lawn presents when there will in a very short time, a free flow through the castle to that very site. Is it not obvious that what is required is patience and foresight into the broader hopes and aspirations for the city rather than grabbing at a quick sell off now?

The possibilities for the Lawn are endless

Acres of gardens can be developed, the Banks area brought back to its former glory and The Lawn could be found a management or entrepreneurial minded body to develop the future potential of the site as a whole so that when these million people actually arrive in Lincoln there is a west of castle area that is in itself a treasure for the city.

In times of economic crisis there are no quick fixes for councils but allowing short term-ism to influence the future of the city is careless and misguided.

I know many people who love the Lawn and one could argue that that is not a reason to keep it in the public domain, but the economic and social potential alone are unquestionable so I, as a local business leader, challenge the council to at the very least allow businesses and the public to meet, perhaps at The Lawn, to look at the issues and potential for the site before the much heralded sale next autumn. We all know how much councils; both city and county, love their focus groups so here is an opportunity to be public led and minded. If nothing else it will show that the council is doing its job to manage rather than subjugate its purpose to others.

More comment on the Lawn sale:

Richard Main is the producer of the Chapterhouse Theatre Company.