KARL McCARTNEY: We must realise the vital impact heritage has on county's future
Our beautiful city of Lincoln, and the county of Lincolnshire, have some of the most important historic places and buildings in England.
These physical memories of our history help us to understand our past and where we live. They improve our quality of life and strengthen local identity and pride. Lincoln's historic places also attract domestic and foreign tourists and contribute to both our national and local wealth, economy and sustainable growth.
I was, therefore, very pleased to attend the recent official opening event, along with various representatives of both Lincoln and the county, of the Heritage Skills Centre in the centre of Lincoln Castle on the site of the county court's former car park. It is a delightful, functional and multi-use building that is another jewel in Lincoln's heritage crown and a credit to Lord Cormack and his able colleagues of the Historic Lincoln Trust, who hosted Viscount Linley – he happily undertook the official opening duties. I urge readers and their families and visitors from near and far to enjoy a visit at the earliest opportunity to both the castle, if you have not been before, and the Heritage Skills Centre whenever it is open or hosts any special events.
At the end of March 2012, the City of Lincoln Constituency had 43 Grade I Listed Buildings, 39 Grade II* Listed Buildings, 366 Grade II Listed Buildings, 27 Scheduled Monuments and three registered parks and gardens.
I recently received a letter informing me that the "heritage at risk register" contains two Grade I Listed Buildings, two places of worship and five conservation areas in the city of Lincoln constituency. Of even more concern, in the last year The Newport Arch and Town Wall in Bailgate and the Colonia Wall and Lower West have both been added to the register. I realise that the City of Lincoln Council's officers tasked with caring for our heritage (and they do a tremendous job despite many constraints) work in tandem with English Heritage, but all of our elected city councillors need to realise the importance our heritage has, on both our past, and our future.
Part of the problem is the City of Lincoln Council's apparent lack of care and consideration towards the ongoing maintenance of the historic buildings and places in Lincoln that fall within their responsibility. This was most recently demonstrated by the state of the Grandstand on Carholme Road. We need to ensure collectively that all our "on show" heritage sites within the city are advertisements to how we regard our environment. This is to ensure that visitors and tourists alike, so important to our city and county economy, realise how proud we are, and that we care for our historical and heritage environment.
We are all well aware that, as a result of the economic downturn, exacerbated by the last Labour Government, local authorities such as the city council are having to adjust their budgets, make cuts to their spending – as they should – and find savings where possible. My plea and concern is that taxpayers' money spent by local councillors should be seen to have a value for money aspect – ie how does it benefit local taxpayers and what economic benefit might such expenditure bring to the local economy?
I am pleased, however, to report that recently Heritage officers at the city council successfully bid for grant aid towards the restoration of Newport Arch. Much credit is due to those responsible at the city council for securing this funding. Both Newport Arch and Lower West Gate were entered onto the register to enable the opportunity, with EH support, to apply for grant aid through the WREN Heritage Fund; this is for monies redirected from Land Fill Tax (the Landfill Communities Fund). Confirmation has recently been announced publicly that the city council has now been successful at stage two of the bid process and on receipt of the £,6,600 bond, £60,000 will be released to the City of Lincoln Council for the works to Newport Arch. The full details of these works will require approval through EH and, following successful tendering will, hopefully be commencing on site later this year.
We know that times are financially very different now than four or five years ago, but our Labour city council needs to realise that they should "cut the cloth" accordingly and if certain councils can reduce council tax each year then why can the City of Lincoln Council not do the same? It needs political will based in reality, and fiscal responsibility.
Unfortunately as the last Labour Government showed, these are not character traits anyone readily associates with the majority of Labour politicians – and in the 13 years under Labour our council taxes went up on average by 106 per cent.