By Local Democracy Reporter

Plans have been revealed to restore the historic Westgate Hall in Grantham into a destination venue.

The work would unlock “genuine and significant investment” for the town centre, the council claims, with more than 30 jobs created.

South Kesteven District Council will request a grant of £300,000 from the High Street Heritage Action Zone programme, which is jointly funded by the council and Historic England.

A similar sum would also be invested by the property owner and tenant.

Details of the eventual use haven’t been revealed, although the council report says: “The tenant is a well-respected operator who aims to create a destination venue in Grantham which will attract people to visit the district, supporting the visitor economy, and enhancing and diversifying the evening/ night time economy of the town centre.”

Council officers have warned that the Grade II listed building is suffering from water ingress and repair costs will continue to spiral if no steps are taken to restore it.

Westgate Hall during restoration works | Photo: Google

It’s estimated that it could take up to £490,000 to get the building back into a usable condition, and the restoration is said to be impossible without public investment.

Evan McDowell Architects have been appointed to oversee the design, planning application and building work.

South Kesteven District Council claims that the plans would act as a catalyst for further regeneration. Restoration work has recently been completed on the exterior stonework.

The report says: “With the options work complete on Westgate Hall, the window for the potential of additional support from Historic England to support the repairs is narrowing. Therefore, the preferred option is for cabinet to approve the allocation of £300,000 grant to restore Westgate Hall and bring it back into use.”

The Heritage Action Zone fund is earmarked for a variety of projects to revitalise Grantham town centre. Historic England have contributed £886,540, with the council putting in £375,660 for the four-year project.

The council will ask for permission to award Westgate Hall the £300,000 grant at next Tuesday’s cabinet meeting.

Grantham residents have previously been asked to contribute their memories and photos of the building to explore its history.

The building was built in 1852 as a corn exchange, and has also been used through the years for Suffrage meetings, weddings and nightclubs. More information can be found at the Westgate Hall Facebook page.

By Local Democracy Reporter

Putting solar farms on prime farmland has been slammed as “nonsense” by councillors who fear for Lincolnshire’s food production.

West Lindsey District councillors say that growing food should be the priority over developments.

Three major solar farm plans, which are currently in the works for the Gainsborough area, are expected to cover more than 7,000 acres of countryside.

A motion was brought by Councillor Anne Welburn to secure the area’s food production and give more support for farmers.

Councillor Jackie Brockway told last night’s full council meeting she was “extremely worried” about a spate of solar farm applications.

“Vast tracts of land will be used up. It doesn’t have to be Grade 1 land to be valuable,” she said.

“It isn’t crucial that solar farms go on these areas and use up good quality land, which is often close to residents’ homes and gardens.

“Once they’ve been built, the land is gone for 25 years – and we don’t know what state it will be in when the panels are gone.

“The world is in a precarious position – taking land away from food production now would be nonsense.”

Solar farms remain in place for decades once built | Photo: Adobe Stock

Councillor Roger Patterson agreed, saying: “The war in Ukraine has shown how important food production is. If another war was to break out now, people would starve, as they’re doing in other countries.

“Instead of taking prime agricultural land, we should be putting solar panels on every single new-build house.”

Councillor Lesley Rollings added: “We’re not producing anywhere near the amount of food we need – barely 60%.

“Farmers have been treated very badly, and are under terrible strain with the rising cost of fertiliser. Energy production can’t come at the expense of the farming community.”

However, Councillor Christopher Darcel said that the world was “in a corner” between climate change and food scarcity, which would cause difficult choices.

There was a suggestion that solar farms would be better placed on disused airfields rather than farmland.

West Lindsey District Council have passed the motion to support farmers

Councillor Stephen Bunney raised concerns about the pollution caused by agriculture, saying: “While it is madness to convert our farmland to solar panels, at some point we need to look holistically at how we feed ourselves and what we can do to reverse the effects of agricultural practices.”

The motion calls on the council’s representatives to take the concerns about farmland to the Central Lincolnshire Joint Strategic Planning Committee, and lobby government ministers.

Councillor Jessie Milne urged anyone concerned about solar park expansions to sign the petition at https://www.7000acres.co.uk.

Residents are protesting proposals for West Burton, Cottam and Gate Burton Solar Farm projects around Gainsborough. These are currently in various stages of development.

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