Museum fear for Letchworth GC

LETCHWORTH Museum must be kept open beyond its projected close by date of March 2011with council funding. This is the view of Cllr Michael Paterson, chairman of the Letchworth area committee of North Herts District Council (NHDC). Letchworth Museum must

LETCHWORTH Museum must be kept open beyond its projected close by date of March 2011with council funding.

This is the view of Cllr Michael Paterson, chairman of the Letchworth area committee of North Herts District Council (NHDC).

"Letchworth Museum must stay open until a new district museum is opened. It is the only way the artefacts there can be preserved," said Cllr Paterson.

"This means not closing the museum in March 2011 and waiting perhaps a year or 18 months until the new district museum is ready and open to take the materials and works from Letchworth.

"You cannot instantly shut down a museum and hope to save money. The place is temperature controlled and you can't just leave everything there. Artefacts have to be cared for in special conditions so they can be preserved. Anyway, if it was closed where is everything going to be stored?

"Cabinet will have to evaluate many things before a final decision is made to hopefully keep financing the museum but in reality I feel comfortable a way will be found.

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"But at the end of the day the museum must stay open until the new museum for the district is operating."

Cllr Paterson was speaking after NHDC's cabinet said on Tuesday night it would press ahead with plans to turn Hitchin Town Hall into a district museum, despite opposition from councillors, action groups, the public and its own scrutiny committee.

At a packed meeting at the council's Letchworth GC offices which went late into the night, the portfolio holders, after listening to speeches by those opposed to the �3.5m plan, moved to put the scheme before full council in December.

It is now down to individual councillors, in a free vote, to decide on the future of the hall.

Portfolio holder for community engagement, Cllr Tricia Cowley, who proposed the motion, said the project was a "win, win situation" - restoring the hall, which is in need of a �1m renovation, and meeting the council's commitment to creating one museum to hold the district collection currently held at Hitchin and Letchworth museums.

Leader of the council, F John Smith, said he was confident that "almost 100 per cent" of current users of the hall could be accommodated in the new building, by converting the current gymnasium and Lucas Room.

If the plan goes ahead, the main hall of the building would form the heart of a new museum, spilt into two levels by a mezzanine floor.

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