Gainsborough’s hotel and cinema plans back on track after review thrown out of court - but public protest continues

The old Guildhall site on Caskegate Street G120313-3a
The old Guildhall site on Caskegate Street G120313-3a

AMBITIOUS yet controversial plans to redevelop Gainsborough’s Riverside are back on after a legal battle against West Lindsey District Council was thrown out of court - but local residents remain defiant.

As previously reported by The Standard, the proposals to redevelop the Elswitha Quarter of Gainsborough by building a 50-room hotel, a seven-screen cinema, restaurant, shops and more were put on hold when WLDC’s plans were made subject to a Judicial Review.

It came after Sturton by Stow based Tillbridge Developments lodged the review to call the council’s decisions into account.

But now, the challenge to the lawfulness of the council’s decision-making has been rejected by the High Court. The judge also ruled Tillbridge Developments will pay the council’s legal costs.

However, local opposition groups continue to protest and have gathered hundreds of signatures on petitions.

A WLDC spokesman said: “After reading through the evidence from Tillbridge and West Lindsey District Council, the claim was rejected as it had no merit and it was made out of time.”

Council leader Coun Burt Keimach continued: “I am delighted this judicial review has been rejected and the Courts have upheld the lawfulness of the council’s decision.”

“I have always been satisfied that the council carried out its work in a correct and professional manner and made the correct legal decisions within a democratic process.”

He added: “The Elswitha development is an opportunity for us to regenerate that part of the river front and bring in much needed jobs and facilities including a hotel, which has been asked for by local businesses.”

“Given the latest unemployment figures reveal there are about 480 young people out of work, we need to embrace developments of this kind.”

A spokesman from claimants Tillbridge Developments was unavailable for comment.

The Elswitha Quarter has been identified by the council as a ‘key regeneration priority’ and is made up of the former council office Guildhall, car parking area and an area of land overlooking the River Trent, known as Whitton Gardens.

The hotel plan in particular has proven particularly controversial with opposition groups arguing that Whitton’s Gardens ‘belongs to the people’.

The council have argued that the 50 room hotel would only take up 20 per cent of Whitton’s Gardens while the rest will stay as public open space with car parking remaining the same and the riverside walk ways unaltered and available to the public.

Chairman of the Trinity Action Group Ian Mills said that the council were ‘not being democratic’.

“I requested that we be able to present our petition to the Chief Executive Manjeet Gill but she wouldn’t give us an appointment.”

“They aren’t living by the ‘localism and democracy’ that they always preach about.”

Ian added: “There’s been no mention of it going to a referendum and we find it totally distasteful that the public haven’t even been asked what they want done with their land.”

West Lindsey Councillor Trevor Young agreed that something needed to be done: “The review being rejected is a great result for the council, but it would have been useful for WLDC to demonstrate a more transparent decision-making process.”

“There’s still a lot of dissatisfaction among the council and I would say that this will rumble on around all of the decisions surrounding Whitton’s Gardens.”

A West Lindsey District Council spokesman responded: “We wrote to the Trinity Action Group inviting them to have a full and frank discussion on the proposals with a number of key councillors and our deputy Chief Executive, Mark Sturgess.”

“We thought it would be a great opportunity for the council to understand the concerns of the petition and discuss this with the members of the council.”

“We would be more than happy to accept the petition from the group.”