March 3, 2021 11.30 am This story is over 15 months old

Still hope Usher collection won’t need “unreasonable” Nottingham transfer

City and county councils are not budging

Lincoln leaders still hold out hope that Lincolnshire County Council will cave over future plans for the Usher Gallery and artefact collection.

City of Lincoln Council’s portfolio holder for economic growth and historic environment Labour Councillor Neil Murray told the authority’s full council he did not think plans to move the Usher collection to Nottingham would happen.

“I don’t think that would be reasonable,” he said, responding to questions from opposition leader Conservative Councillor Thomas Dyer.

“What would be reasonable is if we could reach an agreement with the county council to keep the Usher Art Gallery going as an art gallery, because, after all, it was left to us to Lincoln city council to run as an art gallery.

“It’s unfortunate that in local government reorganisation in the early 70s responsibility for the Usher Art Gallery was given to the county council and not us.

“We will keep talking to them. And I hope at some point, the county council will see that what we’re suggesting is the way forward —  that the Usher art gallery will remain an art gallery, to have investment, and to be looked after and to be part of a cultural heritage in Lincoln.”

However, he told councillors that “unfortunately, Lincolnshire County Council don’t seem to share our view”. “They don’t seem to agree with us, but we will keep trying,” he said.

Councillors at the meeting of the City of Lincoln’s Full Council meeting on Tuesday.

The Usher Gallery continues to divide city and county councillors, as both sides refuse to move forward.

Lincolnshire County Council plans to hand back control of collections at the Usher Gallery to City of Lincoln Council and reconsider how the building operates.

It wants to use the landmark as a venue for weddings and other events in a bid for it to earn its keep.

City council leader Councillor Ric Metcalfe, however, has previously said it was a “betrayal of the county’s rich heritage”.

The authority has since been trying to save the building from the plans.

City of Lincoln Council has previously offered to house birth, death and marriage services at City Hall in a bid to retain the Usher, which is owned by the city council, as an art gallery, but this was rejected.

In November, it was revealed that after unsuccessful negotiations with the county council over the future of the gallery, the city council planned to move all the art and artefacts to Nottingham for safe storage and preservation.

Following Tuesday’s meeting, Lincolnshire County Council’s  executive member for heritage Councillor Nick Worth said: “As far as we were aware the City of Lincoln Council had reached an agreement with Nottingham City Council and over the past few months our team have been working with them on the details of the move.

“If that’s not the case, we’d urge them to talk to us. Our offer to look after the collection still stands, but we do need to be able to use the building in a flexible way.”