End of the road for iconic town building

The old Guildhall site on Caskegate Street G120313-3a
The old Guildhall site on Caskegate Street G120313-3a
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AN ICONIC Gainsborough landmark looks set to be torn down after nearly 50 years, as the council looks to redevelop the town.

The old Guildhall building on Caskgate Street was once a hive of activity as the headquarters for West Lindsey District Council.

The old Guildhall site on Caskegate Street G120313-3b

The old Guildhall site on Caskegate Street G120313-3b

But since they moved to new £4.3m premises at Marshall’s Yard in 2008 it has stood empty and has become an expensive problem for the council, costing £50,000 a year to keep it.

Last week councillors voted in favour of demolishing the building, and have sent their recommendation to the Secretary of State for a final decision.

A developer has been found for the site once empty, but the council remain tight-lipped about who the interested party is.

Rumours have suggested it could be replaced with a hotel or even a bowling alley. But a spokesman for the council said: “West Lindsey District Council has identified a preferred potential development partner but at this time that information is commercially sensitive.”

Coun Chris Underwood-Frost, who chaired last week’s development management meeting said: “We have given quite a significant length of time to allow someone to come forward and redevelop the building.”

“I think we are okay to say we have a project on board and that is where the difficulty was a few years ago when we asked the Secretary of State to grant permission, because there was not a project on board at that time.”

Coun Underwood-Frost posed with a sledgehammer back in 2009 calling for the building to be knocked down.

“I remember a time when people said to me ‘nothing ever happens in Gainsborough and nothing ever will’,” he said.

“That is certainly not the case now, and here is an opportunity to carry on some of the good work we have already done.”

Speaking before the meeting he said: “Over the last ten to 12 years we have had such a lot of investment in Gainsborough. This town is now flourishing and reaping some of the benefits.”

Consent is needed to demolish buildings of a certain size in conservation areas, and where a council owns the building the application must be made to the Secretary of State.

WLDC development management team leader, Simon Sharp said: “The future preservation of the conservation area can only be ensured through the delivery of a new development in this area of town.”

“This redevelopment is needed to compliment the planned growth of the town.”

But not everyone is happy to see the old Guildhall go.

Coun Judy Rainsforth who represents Gainsborough South West - where the Guildhall stands - voted in favour of the recommendation, but said she was not happy.

“I feel very sad about this. I still think it is an impressive building and I love it,” she said.

“I think the time has come and we have got to be realistic. If we want to regenerate that part of Gainsborough it will have to come down.”

Coun Alan Caine said: “I spent a lot of time in that building. I think although it looked good, when you go inside it would cost an absolute fortune to renovate.”

Coun David Cotton added: “I don’t think that area could be redeveloped with the Guildhall standing as it is.”