Councils warring over the future of Lincoln’s Usher Gallery may be about to make peace after new plans were revealed.
Lincolnshire County Council and the City of Lincoln Council have been butting heads over the art gallery since the county announced it wanted to use the landmark as a venue for weddings and other events in a bid for it to earn its keep.
However, new plans lay out how the gallery could instead be split in two, with the downstairs remaining as an art gallery and the upstairs being used flexibly.
County Councillor Nick Worth, executive member for heritage, said: “What we’ve said in our plan going forward is that to make that work we would need to have some flexibility.
“That way we can bring in a revenue stream on that top floor that would make it financially sustainable and then we could work with The Collection to bring in some big events in cooperation with the Usher.”
He confirmed that other locations had also now been found for the registrars and coroners court to go, and that the county would remain happy to look after the heritage it already does so – meaning there would be no need for it to be transferred to Nottingham under the city’s current plans.
Councillor Worth hoped that if an agreement could be reached on the use of the upstairs floor to make the building sustainable, the lower floors could display more artefacts on themed or rotating basis, which would bring in significantly more visitors.
He pointed to the success of events such as the Museum of the Moon and Dinosaur exhibits which bought in 10s of thousands of people.
Currently he said, around 10% of the millions of artefacts under the council’s stewardship are seen, but if plans were agreed, that could increase to 30-40%.
“There are some fantastic stories in that basement and I would love to see them shown”.
“It’s a very simple message: just give us some flexibility on that top floor of the gallery and we’ve sorted the problem. We can have some great collaborative exhibitions between the collection and the actual gallery.”
Leader of the City of Lincoln Council Ric Metcalfe welcomed the new plans and urged a return to the negotiating table.
He said: “We welcome the county council’s decision to explore alternative uses for the space at the Usher art gallery.
“We always had concerns that the services they proposed to move into the building were a poor fit.
“As they have now announced that they are seeking to move to a more arts event-based offering at the Usher, we would welcome a conversation with them to hear more about their proposals.”
It is hoped The Usher Gallery will reopen later this year as part of the Prime Minister’s roadmap out of lockdown.
Lincoln Castle and Collection are hoped to reopen in April with other destinations such as the Museum of Lincolnshire Live, the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight and the Usher gradually joining them after with social distance measures.