Campaigners’ fury over council plan to sell museum

Campaigners’ fury over council plan to sell museum

RED HOUSE Museum looks set to be sold on the open market – angering campaigners who fought to save the building for community use.

The Save Red House Museum and Gomersal Public Hall group say they had put together a plan to take over the 17th century property in the hope that they could renovate it to provide a range of local services.

Initially, the council had offered to transfer the Grade II*-listed museum to the community following its closure in December last year – but officials now say that none of the plans were felt to be suitable for the Oxford Road site.

A ‘caretaker’ tenant is currently in residence to look after the general upkeep of the building, which has links to the Brontes, but plans are being put in place for the council to sell it to the highest bidder.

Coun Lisa Holmes (Con, Liversedge & Gomersal), who helped spearhead community efforts to save Red House, claimed in a series of social media posts that Kirklees hadn’t provided the group with any assistance with their official ‘Expression of Interest’ (EOI) application.

The asset transfer of nearby Gomersal Public Hall, another Grade II-listed building that the community group wanted to take on, also proved to be a sticking point.

She said: “The asset transfer policy documents talk clearly of working in partnership with groups to clarify information, not a clean pass/fail at a first EOI attempt.

“We were given no opportunity to work with you (the council) on any matters such as alternative governance structure.

“We have issue with the fact that it was the council failing to progress with the Charities Commission which created the situation whereby Gomersal Public Hall wasn’t ready to go out for an EOI with Red House museum.

“Had the council got its act together and been ready to move on Gomersal Public Hall, we would have easily met the criteria.

“We’ve said from the start that we are open to discussing the governance model, but you (the council) haven’t given us the chance to do that – you’ve just cut us off at the first stage, won’t give us the opportunity to revise plans and were clearly determined this transfer wouldn’t happen.”

She added: “I am utterly appalled by the lack of forward thinking for the sake of a short-term gain of a ‘few quid’ – or whatever the reason is.

“We have a local businessman prepared to plough a huge amount of money and resources into a community project that would provide unbelievable services to a wide area and save the council a fortune over many years to come.”

A Kirklees Council spokesman said: “The Expressions of Interest (EOI) in an asset transfer received for Red House have been assessed and none of them were felt to be suitable for progressing to a full business case.

“Therefore, in line with the decision made by the council’s cabinet on October 3, 2016, a brief is being prepared to allow the property to be offered to the market.”

Plans to save Dewsbury Museum appear to have been more successful.

The community group Friends of Dewsbury Park Mansion advanced to the next stage of the Community Asset Transfer process after putting forward an EOI to help turn the building into a community hub for physical and mental health and well-being.

They now have to put together a business plan in the hope of persuading the council to let them proceed with the project.

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