Lincoln hotelier makes seven-figure bid for The Lawn complex
Prominent Lincoln hotelier Jonathan Pass has made a seven-figure bid for The Lawn complex.
He wants to turn it into a hotel and major conference centre, with the creation of 30 jobs, and help secure the future of the Sir Joseph Banks Conservatory.
Mr Pass, who owns Charlotte House Hotel which stands within the complex, also plans to include a restaurant, bistro and public bar.
Mr Pass says he will fund the revamp of the conservatory, working with the Sir Joseph Banks Society to manage and run it as an independent visitor attraction. Plans for the new-look hotel and conference centre include adding fountains, restoring many of the building's original features and creating an outdoor plaza.
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"I'm really passionate about Lincoln and believe this city has huge potential," said Mr Pass.
"The Lawn could be the third jewel in the city's crown alongside the castle and the cathedral.
"It is a fantastic building with a rich heritage and we want to turn it into Lincoln's stately home.
“The experience I’ve had transforming Charlotte House Hotel from a derelict building into a thriving business demonstrates an understanding of the site and the potential of The Lawn.
“We hosted over 150 weddings last year, the location proving ideal.
“I am hopeful we will be successful.
“I really want to see the building play its part in the city’s economic growth rather than be turned into flats.”
The plans have already received backing from the Sir Joseph Banks Society trustees.
Honorary secretary of the society, Paul Scott said: “The proposal will, in our view, provide an anchor point for the whole uphill area of Lincoln in terms of tourism and the economy whilst conserving and enhancing a vital part of Lincoln’s heritage.”
Running and maintaining the site, off Union Road, which is owned by the City of Lincoln Council, costs council taxpayers £47,000 a year, prompting the decision to sell.
The bidding ended at noon on yesterday.
Council spokesman Caroline Ashman said the number of applications is commercially sensitive information.
“We have had some interest and now the next step is to look at that and see if there’s anything we need to take up,” she said.
Marie Diamond, 44, who runs the Come to Life gift shop in the grounds and manages the conservatory, said: “Any involvement of the Sir Joseph Banks Society would be most welcome and highly appropriate.
“I think that whoever the new owner is has to have the cash, the strategy and an understanding of the conservatory already in place to improve it and to maintain it to the required standard, without a doubt.
“They have to understand the history and the importance of Banks’ work.”
The Lawn site to be sold totals about 1.62 hectares and includes the main complex, the conservatory and Charlotte House – which is subject to a long-term lease.
Also included are the south lawn and car parking.
The former mental hospital was built in 1819, with Charlotte House added in 1938.
The tropical hothouse, named after Banks, the 18th century Lincolnshire botanist who sailed the world with Captain Cook on The Endeavour, opened in 1989.
The public open spaces surrounding The Lawn – the West Lawn, the recently refurbished play area and much of the public car parking – will remain in council ownership.