Thanet council cabinet members due to make decision on the future of isle museums

A decision must be made on Tudor House, Margate Museum and town hall and Dickens House

Council-owned museums and associated buildings are likely to be handed over for other organisations to take over.

Thanet council Cabinet members will discuss proposals this week, put forward following a second review of the properties.

Margate Museum, now registered as an asset of community value, is earmarked to be transferred to a voluntary or community organisation.

It is recommended that Dickens House in Broadstairs  is marketed as a going concern – inclusive of the premises, collections and staff – through appropriate channels for transfer to a voluntary or community body.

Tudor House

Tudor House in Margate will be marketed for a use that “demonstrates credible investment will be achievable in a reasonable timeframe and the use will continue to support the heritage of the area and use of the asset by members of the public.”

Margate Town Hall will be marketed with the proviso that “consideration (is) given to preserving the Margate Charter Trustees presence.” The existing leasehold interest on the ground floor will not be affected by the transfer.

Thanet council says the action is necessary as it does not have the funds to repair and maintain the premises.

In a report to councillors it says a “decline in (the) condition of these assets will continue without substantial investment.

“Without significant investment, it is likely that the premises will be closed in the medium term. This is not a desirable outcome for anyone.”

Baseline costs are stated as £911,400 for Margate Museum and Town Hall; £215,250 for Tudor House and £210,450 for Dickens House.

Margate Museum and Town Hall

The report shows that Dickens House makes an annual profit of around £2,160 but Margate Museum and Town Hall cost £18,000 per year and Tudor House costs around £5,940 per annum.

The Old Town Hall has been closed for several years due to health and safety concerns.

The council report says closure of the sites would mean vandalism and antisocial behaviour as well as having to seal up the buildings and artefacts meaning the public would have no access to them.

The aim is to retain Margate Museum and Dickens House as museums, although a shop or other trading activity could be added.

It is hoped that the current volunteers of the Margate Museums Trust, which oversee both the museum in the Old Town and Tudor House, will be able to take those two sites on.

Ian Dickie

Trustee Ian Dickie said: “My hope, and I am sure all volunteers would hope, is that we will get first refusal on both. I don’t know anyone else who would do it. And I would hope Tudor House would be kept away from commercial concerns.”

The volunteers have been at the helm since 2010 and earlier this year the museum, and Tudor House, became the first venues in Kent to install the GAMAR app which is triggered by exhibits and boards to display the interactive elements on smartphones and tablets.

The Augmented Reality App, which is in use at the British Museum, has the technology to create graphics, animations, and videos to be layered upon real environments, which provides a way for museums to bring collections into the 21st century.

Created by GAMAR the app can be used for family trails, educational games and interactive audio tours.

At the launch Margate Museums Trust chairman Robin Haddon said the app was aimed at helping the sites be sustainable.

The report to councillors says marketing the sites is the best option otherwise a decision may need to be made to close the two museums and remove the artefacts, loaning them to museums already devolved from the council.

What happens next?

If agreed a marketing team will put together packs for each site containing key opportunities and constraints including planning, legal, contractual, building fabric potential, user information, staff and volunteer and operational data.

Stage 2 will take place during the early Spring of 2020. Marketing will include advertising and approaches for support through English Heritage, Heritage Lottery Fund, Arts Council England, Association of Independent Museums and other independent museum trusts.

Dickens House

During this stage expressions of Interest will be invited, with bidders asked to submit their proposals by a defined date. The detail would need to include the proposed use and information demonstrating experience and financial ability.

The report says: “The purpose is to identify the most realistic and attractive use for the site. The properties are being marketed independently from each other. This does not prevent an organisation expressing an interest in more than one opportunity but will allow for greater flexibility for the council to consider all applications.

Stage 3 would be a shortlist if there are enough expressions received. The shortlisted applicants would be asked to meet with officers to review their proposals.

After this a preferred party would be  chosen for each site and a recommendation made by the panel, to Cabinet for approval.

The proposal will now not come back to Cabinet for at least one year “in recognition that there is a considerable amount of work to be done to prepare the marketing and the opportunities must be widely marketed to adhere to property and procurement laws.”

The options will be decided on by Cabinet members on October 18.

7 Comments

  1. If only TDC had a decent maintenance programme of their properties from the beginning, their assets wouldn’t have deteriorated so much and could have been marketed better as tourist attractions!

    • If only TDC dealt with the £2 million a year losses at Port they would have some money to spare. Why have these losses continued over a four year period with no feasibility study undertaken to investigate how the port could bring in money. There are lots of ideas out there but Councillors are not looking at them. Shame

  2. Instead of KCC pouring £3million into extending the Turner Centre, this money should be redirected into saving our heritage museums.It is disgusting that they plan to squander this money on the Turner centre when our museums are crying out for help.

  3. I think all district councils should be done away with along with the councillors. All this selling off on the pretext of saving money is a scam. If they were really serious about saving money the district councils should be scrapped.
    That would save billions UK wide. Sack all the councillors at KCC and appoint Businessman with a proven track record to run the show.

  4. We live in the sixth richest country in the world. We can’t afford £6,000 a year to maintain a Tudor building. Where does all that wealth go? I don’t have it, do you?

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