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Former Bromsgrove Museum put up for sale
2:40pm Monday 7th April 2014 in Local
SENIOR councillors have decided to make the former Bromsgrove Museum building available to purchase or rent.
As reported in the last edition of the Advertiser, the future of the Birmingham Road building was considered by members of Bromsgrove District's cabinet on April 2.
The museum was closed in 2008 because, the authority said, of the running costs and a reduction in the visitor numbers.
Since then campaigners, led by the Norton Collection Charitable Trust, attempted to take over the running of the museum.
Last July the trust agreed to purchase the building for £200,000. It was given six months, but during this period other locations were looked at including the United Reform Church and the Steps House building.
After the trust was unsuccessful in negotiations for both, attention moved back to the Birmingham Road building.
At the cabinet meeting members considered four options including two from the trust.
These were to grant a long lease of a minimum 25 years on a peppercorn, substantially discounted rent. The other was for the trust to purchase the building for £150,000, with a half on this being paid over a 25 year period.
But councillors heard officers had assessed these options as not providing value for money, and said a sale at below value would be unacceptable as there is limited evidence of wider community benefit arising from the presence of a museum in Bromsgrove.
Councillor Michael Webb, the cabinet holder responsible, said officers had reminded them that the authority had to obtain best value for its assets.
He said pursing the trust's proposals was not best value for the council, and the people of Bromsgrove.
"As members we do have a duty to the public purse," he added.
Council leader Roger Hollingworth raised whether it was possible to give a lease to the museum at market value, with a grant being made so that the trust would not have to pay the full cost of the rent.
But it was explained by officers that this could not be explored, as there are no funds within the council's budget out of which the grant could be paid.
During discussions members supported the view that the trust's options couldn't be pursued, but many commented it had been a difficult decision to take, and recognised it was not what the campaigners had hoped for.
Councillor Mark Bullivant said: "It is a sad decision, we are going to upset a number of people on this."
After ruling out the trust's suggestions, Mr Webb proposed an amendment that officers pursue the dual options of either leasing the building or selling it on the open market.
This was passed after a vote.
In the discussions, cabinet members agreed that the authority would still be open to a market value offer from the trust for the building, once it was put on sale on the open market.
Andrew Harris, chairman of the Norton Collection Trust, said: "The cabinet took a commercial decision.
"We could still try and acquire the building - we have got some funds, and promises towards more."
He added trustees were surprised there had been no mention of removing the collection currently inside the building - which would needed to be done before any sale or lease - as this will be expensive to carry out.
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