Lincolnshire
August 20, 2021 5.03 pm

Lincoln council will pay to keep Usher Gallery open for longer

Senior councillors set to sign off on deal

New details have been revealed around the future of the Usher Art Gallery — including that the City of Lincoln Council will pay Lincolnshire County Council up to £25,000 to keep it open for an extra two days a week.

The two councils confirmed in July that the gallery would remain open and Lincoln’s museum and art collections would stay in Lincolnshire after they agreed to allow private hire of the space for events such as weddings and celebrations.

On Wednesday, City of Lincoln Council’s leaders will sign off on the final proposals, which officers said are supported by the Historic Lincoln Trust, the Usher Gallery Trust and the Save Lincoln Usher Gallery pressure group.

Documents before senior councillors have outlined the negotiated positions around the Usher Gallery as well as the storage and care of the City’s Council’s art and artefacts.

Officers said: “The most significant impact would be if the Usher Gallery were to either close or operate the art displays over a smaller footprint.

“There would be an overall loss of access to a heritage building for the local community.”

Campaigners outside Lincoln’s Usher Gallery when the county originally announced its plans. | Photo: Steve Smailes

The agreement includes plans for Lincolnshire County Council to “absorb” the cost of opening three days a week, while the City of Lincoln Council will commission an additional two days.

The reports said the cost will “not exceed” £25,000 (plus inflation) a year – a £54,000 reduction on the £79,000 the authority had budgeted for before the councils agreed to the new plans.

It will cover staff, management overhead and utilities.

The renewed lease for the Usher Gallery will remain at 39 years, but a new break clause will be inserted at 20 years – with the council having to give a minimum of two years notice.

The same clauses will also apply to a new Collections Management Agreement between the two councils, which will see the city’s “large collection of art and artefacts” stay with the county council.

As part of the agreement, the City of Lincoln Council will give the county its “archaeological material drawn from the wider county area to the county council” for free.

Below are some other key points from the report:

  • The [Usher] lease will be amended to enable third party hire and ceremonies. Limits will be set to ensure the building is retained for uses in keeping with culture and heritage.
  • The gallery will be open, “as far as practical”, on the same basis as The Collection museum, totalling an average of five days per week.
  • Both councils will explore external funding bids to “transform” The Collection museum building and Usher Gallery and  “create a sense of one location across the two sites”.
  • The storage agreement will “be clear that the James Usher bequest obligations rest with the city council”, but will be discharged through the county council
  • An agreed amount of the Usher Collection will remain on display within the gallery at any one time, while the remaining Usher Collection could be displayed in other locations such as The Collection Museum or Guildhall
  • The county council will not charge for storing, conserving and curating the city council’s material

If councillors vote to approve the agreements on Wednesday, officers will be given delegated powers to complete the negotiations and enter into the new contracts.

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