Town council saves museum

PUBLISHED: 09:33 19 October 2010

Views of North Somerset Museum, Burlington St, WsM.; 22-10-08

Views of North Somerset Museum, Burlington St, WsM.; 22-10-08

Copyright Archant Ltd

THE future of North Somerset Museum is finally secure after Weston Town Council agreed to take on the running of the facility at a meeting last night (Mon).

Following a two-hour debate, including public participation, the authority voted in favour of managing the Burlington Street building.

Weston resident Ken Lacey pleaded with councillors not to take on the running of the site, which had been owned by North Somerset Council.

He said council finances would not stretch, and ‘the town was being emotionally blackmailed and taken for a ride’ by the unitary authority.

Dr Howard Smith, speaking on behalf of Save Our Museum Action Team, said the facility was ‘unique and precious and once lost can never be recovered’.

Many councillors spoke in favour of taking on the museum, including Councillor Keith Morris, who said: “Do we owe it to the citizens of Weston to preserve their heritage? I believe we do.”

Town council leader Pauline Priestman spoke against the move.

She said the council ‘would be stretching their finances too far’ and asked councillors to take a ‘reality check’.

She added: “We are talking about a large amount of money. I would think and ask the councillors to make their decision not with their hearts but with their heads.”

Councillors voted 15 to nine in favour of taking on the freehold of the museum subject to conditions.

North Somerset Council will give £100,000 to the town council for repairs and maintenance costs, as well as paying for repairs to the boiler and asbestos-related work.

The museum artefacts which are not on display in the museum will be moved to storage in the heritage centre in Taunton, and managed jointly by the town council, Somerset County Council and North Somerset Council.

But the town council agreed that this would be on the condition that once a trust was set up, which is expected to take around 12 months, it would retain control and have first call on the 72,000 exhibits.

• See the Weston Mercury newspaper on Thursday for more details on the council meeting.

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