Caroline Goodwill, in red jacket, listens to Coun Graham Turner responding to her petition on the future of the former Red House Museum
By Tony Earnshaw Local Democracy Reporter
Kirklees Council says “conversations are ongoing” over the future of the site in Gomersal following enquiries from what it describes as “interested parties”.
And campaigners fighting to stop parts of the site from being turned into housing have been assured that no final decision will be taken until all potential opportunities to retain the building have been exhausted.
The revelation came after supporters in Huddersfield Town Hall presented a petition calling for the museum, which has connections to Charlotte Brontë, to be given over to the Red House Heritage Group.
Kirklees Council closed Red House almost three years ago as part of a reaction to Government austerity cuts.
It turned down three asset transfer requests and announced in September this year that the building and grounds were to be put on the market.
In a hard-hitting and impassioned address Caroline Goodwill exhorted members to stand up for people who had signed the petition – and who wanted action on the former museum.
She said: “We are not expecting you to reopen Red House but we the Red House Heritage Group wish to take it over in some form or another and work with Kirklees to save and develop this wonderful heritage resource.”
She referred to the 17th century house as “a perfect time capsule” that demonstrated how the Industrial Revolution had happened and underlined the importance of the wool trade to the borough.
She also underlined Red House’s connections to Charlotte Brontë, calling it the second most important Brontë site globally after the family parsonage in Haworth.
She added: “In case you haven’t noticed, the world is Brontë-mad.
“Would another five or six houses on the Red House site make such an important difference to the housing stock? Is it worth destroying this national and international site?”
For the council Coun Graham Turner said the decision to close Red House had been very difficult.
Three applications for the museum to be the subject of a community asset transfer missed the relevant criteria to move forward – one by just a single point. All were rejected.
But he pledged to look closely at any new bids.
“I will promise you this evening that we will not sell the building until we have exhausted all the potential opportunities to either retain the building without a large subsidy or complete a successful asset transfer, or by it being taken over by an alternative charity or public body.
“Any positive outcome can only be achieved if any interested parties talk to us.”