Margate Museums Trust has confirmed it will put in a bid to take over both Margate Museum and the Tudor House from Thanet council.
Council Cabinet members agreed last night (October 18) to put in motion steps to market Margate Museum, Tudor House, Dickens House and Margate Town Hall for other organisations to take over and run.
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 said 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.
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
Cabinet members have now approved the next steps to market the sites although during the meeting Thanet Independent Councillor Stuart Piper questioned a lack of public debate on “selling off the family silver” instead of “cherishing heritage across the island.”
A question was also raised by UKIP councillor Lin Fairbrass regarding a plan in 2016 to create a museum on the Tudor House site that would also hold the Margate Museum collections.
The idea was mooted due to the discovery of the 17th century malting barns at the rear of Tudor House which are currently disused.
Architect and Margate Museums Trustee Peter Thomas told The Isle of Thanet News that the proposal had been unviable and would have required a complete new build.
Questions were also raised over when money bequested to Dickens House would be finally released.
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 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.
‘Expression of interest’
Mr Thomas said the Trust will put in a bid for the museum and Tudor House.
He said: “We have a vision for both Margate Museum and the Tudor House and we will be putting forward an expression of interest.
“We want to continue running both sites and have a really good team of people with good knowledge. We want to keep them going as they are but also develop them. As a charity we have the option of getting access to funding and grants such as from the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Architectural Heritage Fund which will go a long way towards the restoration which both buildings desperately need but Thanet council is not in a position to carry out.
“We are actively exploring the options so when we put our proposals forward they will be taken seriously. We are absolutely committed to doing the best we can to keep these sites open as attractions for the community.”
The Margate Museum Trust 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.
What happens next?
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 dat.
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.
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.
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.”