County Hall bosses are urging “partners” to come forward and run Burnley’s under-threat Queen Street Mill, but denied rumours that a prominent London museum had expressed an interest.
The iconic museum in Harle Syke was identified by county council bosses for closure as part of cost-cutting measures.
The museum cannot simply be closed downRoger Frost
Over the next five years to 2020/21 the council must deliver savings of £262m.
Burnley councillor Roger Frost revealed he had heard rumours that a prominent London museum would be interested in running the museum, which holds the world’s only collection of steam-powered weaving looms.
The outspoken local historian also slammed the county council for its handling of its reduced, budget.
Coun. Frost said: “Lancashire County Council has a duty to maintain Queen Street’s unique collection.
“The museum cannot simply be closed down. The county council is not handling its reduced properly efficiently and needs to look again at Queen Street. I have heard that one of the big London museums may be interested in helping to run Queen Street.”
A county spokesman said the authority had received no contact.
Susan Mathieson, the co-ordinator of Save Lancashire’s Mill Museums Campaign, agreed the museum could not simply be mothballed.
She said: “The importance of preserving these historical sites from a social, historical and cultural perspective as an education and community resource is imperative.
“The four-month timescale for the museum to find an alternative source of funding to avoid imminent closure is unrealistic. We are raising awareness, seeking a stay of execution that will allow a viable business plan to be produced, thus preserving 200 years of Lancashire heritage for future generations.
“If the museums and their collections are mothballed, the chances of reopening as a working museum are limited.”
A petition and Facebook page can be found at www.change.org/p/councillor-jennifer-mein-save-lancashire-s-mill-museums and www.facebook.com/savethemills.
Meanwhile, County Coun. Marcus Johnstone has slammed the Government for its “misguided” policy.
The cabinet member for environment, planning and cultural services, said: “The county council is in a very challenging financial situation, caused by a combination of relentless Government cuts and rising demand.
“We have to prioritise vital services for the most vulnerable, particularly social care, which means we face very difficult decisions.
“I did not come into politics to close museums or any other public service but this is the reality of our situation. It’s what austerity looks like and is entirely the result of what I consider to be misguided Tory Government policy.
“We have just embarked on a 12-week consultation. We are consulting widely to seek as many views and to speak to as many outside bodies as possible, for alternative delivery model ideas that may allow Queen Street Mill to stay open.
“However, if no suitable proposal comes forward, we will ensure that plans are in place to keep Queen Street Mill building and its collections safe, maintained and preserved.
“Money was set aside in the budget proposal for this purpose, should we find ourselves in this position.”
Full details of the consultation are available at www.lancashire.gov.uk.