Almost 30,000 Lincolnshire-owned works of art and historical artefacts would need to be moved, possibly out of the county, if plans to change the Usher Gallery’s role goes ahead.
The City of Lincoln Council has described county council heritage shake-up plans as a “betrayal of our rich heritage”.
Ric Metcalfe, the leader of the city council, has written a scathing response to Lincolnshire County Council’s plans for the Usher Gallery.
Despite an 827-strong opposition from a public consultation, the county council is still planning to change the Usher into a small gallery space, Coroner’s Court and registrar.
The county council is seeking a senior member’s approval as early as September.
Now the leader of the city council has said that it would have no option but to put all artwork into a specialist storage facility, or on loan outside of Lincolnshire if the current plans go ahead.
He added that: ‘While the city council owns the Usher gallery building, it allows the county council to use it rent free. In return, the county council looks after the buildings and artefacts for free. However, it is now seeking to hand all of the artefacts back but keep the building rent free.’
Art and historical items need specialist storage. The city council says is does not possess this, but the county council does.
Councillor Ric Metcalfe said: “What we are witnessing is a betrayal of our county’s rich heritage. The county council has been the custodians of the collection since 1974 and now they are looking to just walk away.
“I am shocked by their decision to progress with their plans despite significant opposition and the known impact it will have on public access to Lincolnshire’s historical artefacts.
“We have urged them to retain the building for the purpose it was originally designed. It is clear that public opinion supports this approach and it is imperative the county council reconsiders its decision.
“Heritage services have sat with the county council for more than 45 years. They are experts in the field and have been entrusted with looking after the city’s rich historical artefacts. It is very clear where the responsibility for these artefacts lies.
“We are very concerned that the county council no longer appears to take its role as custodian of these important works of art seriously.
“If their choice is to reduce the heritage services offer, they must find a way to do this that doesn’t impact on the preservation of our city’s significant and rich heritage.”
Councillor Nick Worth, executive member for heritage at Lincolnshire County Council, said previously: “We know there’s a passionate minority who want to keep the Usher Gallery as it is, but we have to take the decision that’s best for the county as a whole.
“So using the building as a base for the registration, celebratory and coroner’s service remains the recommendation.
“That said, the Usher Gallery Trust and Historic Lincoln Trust have shown an interest in taking on the gallery and we are open to that.
“So while things are moving forward, we will continue our discussions with them to see if they can come up with a workable proposal.”