Final decision on the fate of two museums

THE fate of two museums in North Kirklees will be decided on Monday. 

Cabinet members will be asked to agree a new vision for culture in the district, centred on three museums.

If the proposals are given the go-ahead, it is likely that Dewsbury Museum and Red House in Gomersal will be closed by the end of October.

The cost-cutting plan proposes retaining Oakwell Hall and Country Park, Bagshaw Museum and a new Huddersfield Museum and Art Gallery.

Cabinet Member for Creative Kirklees, Coun Graham Turner, said that the proposals had been drawn up following a period of engagement with service users and the public.

He said: “Obviously the majority of people wanted to keep all the museums.

“During the budget consultation in January, 55 per cent of people wanted the collections where they are, but 45 per cent felt we should display exhibitions in community and business venues.

“We have responded to this in the vision by proposing a mix of site-based activities and other opportunities.

“It is clear that many residents love and value the buildings we have but if we do not close any of the sites it will be impossible to achieve the savings we need to make.

“With a constantly diminishing budget, we have to change the cultural offer but I believe the proposed changes will ensure that we can deliver a service for the residents of Kirklees that tells our story, in a different and more up to date way.”

The proposals have been met with criticism from support groups. Jenifer Devlin, from the Friends of Crow Nest Park group, said: “Closing Dewsbury Museum will clearly increase inequality and deny schools and families access to a local museum.

“When the plans are completed, there will be no museum between Huddersfield and Batley.

“North Kirklees will be served only by difficult-to-access Bagshaw Museum and Oakwell Hall.

“It is a shocking state of affairs that a town the size of Dewsbury will be without a museum.

“There are ongoing attempts to regenerate Dewsbury, so I would like to know how Coun Turner reconciles his statement with his determination to close Dewsbury’s museum.”

If Cabinet members agree to the proposals, expressions of interest will be invited from local groups to take on those museums not included in the final portfolio.

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