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Plans for swimming pool at Lincoln’s White Hart Hotel has ‘little to no public benefit’ and ‘would disturb a high volume of archaeological remains’

An archaeologist has called on the City of Lincoln Council to reject the White Hart Hotel’s proposed swimming pool complex, arguing it threatens the heritage of the city ‘for little to no public benefit’.

A planning application submitted for the Grade II listed building seeks permission to build a swimming pool, spa and gym complex inside the hotel in the heart of historic Lincoln.

The facilities, if approved, would be used by hotel guests and located at the rear of the building along Eastgate, next to Lincoln Cathedral.

Lincoln's White Hart Hotel
Lincoln's White Hart Hotel

While there will be no external appearance changes to the building and the internal layout remains ‘largely unchanged’ from previous consented proposals, evaluations have revealed the need to remove existing concrete floor slabs to make way for the 11m long and 1.4m deep pool.

Local businessman and owner of the White Hart Hotel Andrew Long said in his proposal to City of Lincoln Council’s planning team that it would ‘contribute towards the revival’ of the hotel after a multi-million pound renovation — but a professional in the field of archaeology has expressed concerns.

Samantha Stein, a Lincoln resident who is a professional archaeologist for more than 20 years and a producer of archaeology programming on national television, has made her feelings clear on the proposal, and does not agree with it.

Plans for the pool
Plans for the pool

“This is unwarranted destruction of our public heritage for little to no public benefit,” she said.

“This historic hotel is at the centre of the mediaeval city of Lincoln and the centre of Lindum Colonia, a significant early Roman settlement.

Find out about planning applications that affect you at the Public Notice Portal.

“The creation of the pool would disturb a high volume of archaeological remains which are of national — possibly international — significance.”

The White Hart Hotel wants to add a pool
The White Hart Hotel wants to add a pool

Samantha argues that all cases of significant excavation should show “significant public benefit,” and this application, she says, lacks that detail.

Her claims are that not even “the most experienced archaeologist or developer” could expect to be “remotely prepared” for what they might find at a site such as the White Hart Hotel.

At the time of reporting, there are a total of six objections on the public planning portal for this development, with each citing the historical significance of the area.

Objectors come from as close as Lincoln itself, to further afield in Sheffield and Chesterfield, and even one from The Netherlands — further underlining the international heritage of uphill Lincoln.

“Archaeology is a wonderful thing, but when dealing with urban deposits, particularly in an area with so much history like Lincoln, you can always expect the unexpected,” Samantha added.

“This can take months and months, and become costly very, very quickly. Without a detailed evaluation, anything is possible, from cemeteries to cesspits to wells, to intact Roman houses.”

She continues: “The long and short of this is that there is no suitable public benefit to constructing a below ground pool in the centre of historic Lincoln.

“Our tourism is drawn from our history, and this needs to be valued by the local authority from below the ground up.

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“The council puts on events highlighting our heritage, but it also needs to respect it in practice, in real time.

“This means they should reject this planning application for the construction of a below ground pool, or at the very least require further evaluation plus comprehensive formal programme of outreach, possibly informed by public consultation.”

The White Hart Hotel has reassured concerned residents that “the significance of the archaeology” was taken into account when planning the swimming pool complex, and that heritage teams were chosen “specifically” for their “local expertise and familiarity” with the hotel and its surrounding area.

Andrew Long, owner of the White Hart and Principal Director at Travel Sector Property Group, said: “The team concerned has been working with the hotel since 2022, before the wider renovations began in 2023 and have been working closely with the hotel throughout the refurbishments that have been taking place for the past year.

“From an early stage, the team has been in consultation with the local authority, including their heritage and archaeology advisors, and this has continued throughout the duration of the works carried out so far.

“The proposed archaeological excavation and recording has been developed in close co-operation with the City of Lincoln Council archaeologist, the groundworks contractors and structural engineers, to ensure the smooth operation of the work, with time being allowed in the construction programme for the full recording necessary on such an important site.”

Mr Long went on to say that public viewing of the excavations for this development would be “impractical” given the “confined access and small area” of the site in question, but has proposed a public engagement plan, as well as a display of any discoveries to be situated within the hotel itself.

“Unfortunately, the confined access and the small area involved makes public viewing of the excavations in progress impractical. However, a public engagement plan has already been discussed with the City of Lincoln Council and a display of discoveries is proposed in the hotel itself. Talks will also take place with local groups after completion of the excavation works.

“Throughout the development so far, a programme of archaeological monitoring works has been in place and Travel Sector Property has been working closely with all parties and will continue to do so.”

The swimming pool plans are the latest stage in a long line of refurbishment works to the site, since it was purchased by local businessman Andrew Long in 2022.

An extensive multi-million pound revamp of the building has taken place over the last 12 months, including the opening of a new restaurant called Antlers next door to the main entrance.

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