OUTRAGED Gainsborough residents and community groups have spoken out against West Lindsey District Council’s controversial plans to build a hotel at Whitton’s Gardens.
As part of plans to redevelop Gainsborough’s Elswitha quarter which could see a cinema, restaurant and shops built near the riverside, WLDC has recently announced hopes to build a chain hotel and its car park on top of Whitton’s Gardens.
The idea has courted much controversy and opposition from many councillors and residents - but now several groups have come together to launch a petition against the proposals.
“It’s disgusting and really quite concerning,” said Ian Mills, manager of the Streat Cafe on Trinity Street and chairman of the Trinity Action Group.
“We have a number of other areas of land going to waste, such as Chapel Staithe - so why do they want to go and build this on Whitton’s Gardens?”
“It just doesn’t ring true and there’s a large number of us who are against this.”
While not against the idea of a new hotel in the area, Ian says that the Trinity Action Group has started up a petition protesting against the chosen location and a lack of public consultation.
“The south west ward of Gainsborough has got very little in terms of open green space, so we all find it disgusting that West Lindsey District Council want to sell this off to a private company,” said Ian.
“We don’t dispute that a hotel is a much-needed facility for the town, but it’s just wrong to build it there.”
Ian added: “We’ve got pages of signatures on our petition so far and so many comments from people who think that this is just wrong.”
“Please speak out and have your say if you agree that this shouldn’t be happening.”
The Riverside Festival Committee, which is in the process of organising a huge event around the site of the proposed hotel development for next year, also voiced their concerns.
“Many of the committee are South West ward residents and cannot accept that a major building project is to be sited on public open space, which was left to the people of Gainsborough by the Whitton family,” said festival committee chairman Tim Davies.
“As one of the organisers of our prestigious festival noted, the loss of this public space would be a tragedy - not only for the festival, but also for the town as a whole.”
Tim continued: “The festival brings in many thousands of visitors to the town each year and their spending power is vitally important to Gainsborough.”
“We feel that as a user and a service provider of the Whitton’s Gardens we could have been involved if WLDC had chosen to go to public consultation.”
“It is disappointing that they chose not to involve the public of Gainsborough in the decision as the area in question is a public open space, not just for the Riverside Festival but for the public in general.”
He added: “Open government seems to have been conveniently forgotten in this case.”
Responding to claims of a lack of public involvement, a WLDC spokesman said: “The council will undertake a consultation exercise to get people involved in how the public realm in this area can be planned to make it more useable and to ensure that its quality is improved.”
The council also says that only 20 per cent of Whitton’s Gardens will be lost to built development while the rest will stay as public open space, car parking will stay the same and thee riverside walk ways will remain unaltered and available to the public.
Council officials have previously said that a hotel is ‘desperately needed in Gainsborough’.
Chairman of the Prosperous Communities committee, Coun Malcolm Parish, said: “So many businesses are expanding and we need to make sure visitors have a place to stay.”
Coun Parish continued: “By securing a hotel first we can then look at improving the leisure and cultural offer for the town.”
As part of the development, it was announced earlier this month that the old Guildhall has been given the green light from the Government to be demolished.