Weston's Museum set to shut

PUBLISHED: 09:01 29 January 2010 | UPDATED: 11:38 25 May 2010

WESTON'S museum looks set to close as part of a series of 'devastating' cuts across the district.

WESTON'S museum looks set to close as part of a series of 'devastating' cuts across the district.

North Somerset councillors and officers have decided their preferred option is to shut and sell the Burlington Street site as part of a series of cost-cutting measures.

Last month it was announced that North Somerset Museum, along with The Playhouse and Winter Gardens in Weston, could be handed to private companies or charitable trusts.

But the Weston Mercury can exclusively reveal that, despite months of promises that members were trying to save the attraction, the preference now is to close it down and sell the building.

The council needs to save £7.2million over the next two years, with about £2.5million is likely to come from the development and leisure department that oversees leisure facilities.

A report released this week shows that, as part of the authority's attempts to plug the funding gap, artefacts are likely to be placed in storage and the museum would be replaced by a 'travelling exhibition' and a small-scale visitor attraction.

Former doctor and Weston historian Howard Smith said: "This is really devastating news.

"It is unimaginable that our part of Somerset is to have no place of community record or historical resource.

"The so called 'touring exhibition' will become a tatty disposable item.

"The museum is irreplaceable.

"Surely, as a community, we have a responsibility to our past and to our future."

In December 2008 North Somerset Council said it had drawn up an attack plan to save the museum from closure.

Only last month it announced it had cut opening hours and jobs at the attraction in an attempt to stop it losing so much money and keep it running.

Another well-known Weston historian, John Crockford-Hawley, said: "What a bunch of amateur nerds to make this decision.

"There has been an increased interest in history and North Somerset Council is flying in the face of this.

"It will rue the day it decided this. The town has had a museum since 1862.

"You can't put a museum collection in the back of a van and take it around villages.

"Why can't the museum be made more productive where it is?

"People should be able to see their history whenever they want to."

As part of the cost-cutting measures, the council is due draw up private contracts for The Playhouse and Winter Gardens.

It is a move that is calculated to save about £500,000 per year on subsidies and council staff, including senior officers.

Dual-use sports centres, dog control and building control are other services that could soon go under the microscope as part of the cuts.

The decision over the future of North Somerset Museum is likely to be taken at a meeting of the council's executive in March.

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