Thursday, 21 April 2011

News - Museum's future uncertain (Newark)

The future of Millgate Museum, Newark, looks uncertain as councillors are being urged to break the lease for the building.
A report to Newark and Sherwood District Council recommends withdrawal as soon as possible despite short-term financial loss.

The portfolio holder for leisure, Mr Roger Jackson, said tentative talks had taken place with the private consortium owners of the property, Wendgreen Ltd, to see if they could be released from the lease or a change of use be permitted.

The 30-year lease was taken out on April 7, 1995, and expires in 2025.

Mr Jackson said: “How an earlier council agreed to that lease beggars belief.

“It was a crazy bit of business and has tied us up in knots.”

His comments came at a meeting of the services overview and scrutiny committee.

Mr Brendan Haigh said the exhibits, such as an Edwardian/Victorian street scene, were looking tired given limitations of layout and space, and it might be better “to board it up” rather than keep it operating in its current guise.

“The whole aura of the place is tired,” he said.

Mr Haigh said he realised they had a lease and that they may have to make a loss in the short-term.

“The nettle of Millgate Museum must be grasped,” he said.

In addition to the street scene, installed more than 20 years ago, there are exhibitions centred on agriculture, trades and industry, Newark in the two world wars, and the legacy of the 20th Century.

Some exhibits could move to an agricultural museum planned at Newark Showground, it was said.

Mr Jackson said Millgate Museum was not Disability Discrimination Act compliant. A lift would probably need to be installed to meet the legislation.

He said much-needed money could be reinvested in creating a national Civil War museum on Appletongate at the Old Magnus Buildings and Tudor Hall.

Mr Jackson said the focus would be on Newark under siege.

Newark was laid siege three times by Parliamentarians and surrendered only when ordered to by King Charles I.

The council has until 2012 to develop detailed plans and apply for the £2.8m it needs from Heritage Lottery towards the £4.43m scheme.

It is believed 40,000 people a year could visit the interactive museum.

Speaking after the meeting, the council’s chief executive, Mr Andrew Muter, said: “The council is working on developing an exciting new museum at the Old Magnus Buildings about Newark’s history and the Civil War.

“If and when that project comes to fruition, the council will want to have considered the future of Millgate Museum but the time-scales for this are not yet clear.”

The scrutiny committee’s recommendation to the ruling cabinet is that: “the council should urgently negotiate withdrawal from Millgate Museum at the earliest opportunity accepting that this would incur costs in the short-term.”

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