News: The new hand-painted mural that will welcome people to Lincoln’s Cornhill

News: The new hand-painted mural that will welcome people to Lincoln’s Cornhill

Another Lincolnshire Highlights news story…

In 1970, Lincoln Corporation and a development consortium unveiled a huge shopping centre proposal to the public.

Covering the block from the River Witham to St Mary’s Street and from the back of the High Street shops to Melville Street and Broadgate, it included an enormous enclosed shopping mall, market, bus station and multi-storey car park.

All of Sincil Street would have been demolished as well as both the old and new Corn Exchanges – which were listed buildings – and the Central Market, with the exception of the facades of the old Corn Exchange and the Buttermarket.

It was called Centre 71. Opposition to the proposal came from many quarters – shopkeepers and market traders in the area were concerned about their future rents, while shopkeepers more widely in Lincoln could see a huge threat to their trade.

The scale of the proposals was criticised as being far in excess of any measure of shopping need, and the designs too similar to ones springing up in other towns and cities, with no regard to the character of the city.

The Lincoln Society was set up to mobilise opposition on a conservation basis and provided a robust defence of the area at the local planning inquiry which started in December 1971.

In March 1973, the proposals were finally rejected by the Government on the basis that the shopping mall would have been too big for Lincoln and would have seriously affected the rest of the town on a commercial basis.

After years of uncertainty, the Cornhill area had suffered planning blight and was in need of work but had survived the threat of monolithic redevelopment.

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In September, 2002, the Lincolnshire Echo reported on the results of a survey by a London consultancy firm which examined how Lincoln could develop into a prosperous and attractive visitor centre over the following decade.

The document was two inches thick with facts and figures about shops, shoppers, retail floor space and spending habits.

It concluded that in future, there would be a demand for more bars, restaurants and shops, and identified two main areas which could be developed to provide the space.

One was the area of Tentercroft Street and Kesteven Street (where the new East West Link road now runs).

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The other was an area termed ‘Lindongate’, which referred to the bus station and land between Sincil Street and Melville Street.

It was said that Lindongate could be used for shops, residential accommodation and hotels. Cut to May 2006 and a new city centre masterplan was unveiled in Lincoln by the Prince of Wales.

Alongside suggestions of ways to breathe new life into City Square, it also detailed how Lincolnshire Co-op was hoping to renovate the Cornhill Quarter.

Under the scheme outlined in the masterplan, the bus station would be relocated to a site nearer the train station and the Co-op centre would be demolished.

They would be replaced by new shops, cafes, bars and offices – wrapped around two 200-space car parks.

A new pedestrian shopping strip – provisionally called Lindongate – would run between Waterside South and Norman Street.

The Co-op’s chief executive Ursula Lidbetter said at the time that the City Square Centre was a “building of its time” and was now looking “very tired”.

By April 2007, Manchester-based developer Modus had been appointed to lead the scheme, which would create a new transport interchange by knocking down the current bus station and building a better one nearer the train station.

As well as a department store, there would be five new major units and 34 standard units for shops.

Modus director James Ridings said: “Retailers do want to come to Lincoln because it is an up-and-coming destination, but there isn’t the space at the moment.”

By July 2008, plans had been submitted to the city council but a year later, the project was dealt a major blow when Modus Eastern (Lincoln) Ltd’s parent company, Modus Ventures, called in the administrators as the financial crisis hit the UK property market.

The agreement between Lincolnshire Co-op and Modus collapsed and in April 2010, the Echo reported that the Co-op was still looking for a new development partner.

While at the time, the collapse of the initial Lindongate project was a bitter blow for traders – and indeed the wider economy – the following years saw a concerted effort to push ahead plans for the regeneration of the site.

And it is now, thanks to major investment by the Co-op and the city council, that we are finally seeing the results of that work come to fruition.

Ursula Lidbetter previously told the Echo: “It’s fascinating to think about how the Cornhill area would be now if the Centre 71 development in the 1970s had gone ahead.

“Both Corn Exchange buildings and all of the streetscape would have been demolished. The development we have now started in The Cornhill Quarter is a combination of rebuild and restoration to retain as much of the authenticity and original character of the area as possible.

“This is what many retailers, cafes and restaurants are now looking for, and will certainly set the scene for our beautiful historic city as you arrive in the centre.

“Now work is underway, we know we finally have the chance to bring this area back to glory and we won’t rest until we’ve achieved it.”

In April 2018 Lincolnshire Co-op appointed KLM Retail as joint agents on its £70m rejuvenation of the Cornhill Quarter alongisde Banks Long and Co, which has been working on the scheme for three years.

Ursula Lidbetter said: “We have a great team currently working on the project, who’ve already brought some standout names to Lincoln.

“With its professional and progressive approach, KLM Retail will work with Banks Long and Co to bring even more ambitious names to the Cornhill Quarter.”



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