July 19, 2019 5.07 pm This story is over 29 months old

Why County Council can’t simply hand Usher Gallery back to City Council

There’s the matter of a century-long lease to deal with

Lincolnshire County Council will find it difficult to simply hand the keys in and “walk away” from its tenancy of the Usher Gallery.

As reported this morning, the county’s leader Councillor Martin Hill said he was prepared to give responsibility back to the City of Lincoln council if they thought they could do better than the current proposals which aim to increase visitor numbers.

But, there would have to be a certain amount of legal wrangling it would seem, because the county has a 100-year lease of the building signed with the city.

Signed in 1974, the county is legally a tenant for the next 56 years until 2075 and as part of that, it is understood, has responsibility for the upkeep of the building.

Earlier this week, City Council leader Ric Metcalfe placed responsibility for “looking after the city’s rich historical artefacts” on the county and called on it to reconsider its plans for the Grade II listed building.

However, he refused to respond further to Councillor Hill’s comments this morning, and said: “We have only just received the county council’s business case, when it was released to the public.

“It would not be appropriate to discuss this further until we’ve had time to digest their reasoning for walking away from an agreement that has stood for 45 years.

“As stated previously, we will respond in full once we’ve fully read the report.”

More than 800 people rejected the proposals in a recent consultation.

The authority has previously said it will consider interest from the Usher Gallery Trust and Historic Lincoln Trust in taking on the building.

As part of the public consultation the city council requested that the county council explored alternative opportunities to retain the building as an art gallery.

Lincoln’s Labour MP Karen Lee has also slammed the “disgraceful” decision to persist with plans to change the Usher Gallery.

During the consultation an online petition rose to over 2,000 signatures and protesters marched through the city to ‘save’ the gallery.

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