£400k Saffron Walden Museum project a step closer

Saffron Walden Museum

Saffron Walden Museum - Credit: Archant

The project to resolve Saffron Walden Museum’s storage needs and make its collections more accessible to all has taken a major step forwards.

Planning permission for a purpose-built store at the council’s Shire Hill site was granted earlier this year and now Uttlesford District Council and the Saffron Walden Museum Society have finalised the necessary legal paperwork to allow the project to proceed.

A tender was run over the summer for a contractor to build the store and it is now likely the project will begin before the end of this year.

The museum’s collections and building itself are owned by the museum society and the district council runs the service in collaboration with the society for the benefit of the public.

It has been a long-held ambition to improve the storage facilities for the collections, which will give better access to the thousands of artefacts for staff and researchers alike.

More importantly, it will pave the way for extending displays and access to collections in the museum, as the first stage of a forward plan to improve the museum service.

The new building is expected to cost in the region of £400,000. The museum society is providing just under 95 per cent per cent of the funding, with the district council making up the difference and providing the surveying and project management expertise.

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Cllr Howard Rolfe, cabinet member for community partnerships and engagement, said: “This is a significant step forward and we can now look forward with certainty to a new store for the museum service next year. It will make the museum’s extensive collections more accessible for researchers who will be able to make appointments to study objects in depth.

“It will also greatly benefit the general public as the permanent displays in the museum will be much easier to update due to vastly improved access for staff to the collections.”

Tony Watson, chairman of Saffron Walden Museum Society, said: “We look forward to the project getting under way and the society will now be working with council officers to plan the process of transferring the collections into the new store next year.

“This is the first phase of our museum improvement plan and once the store is up and running we can turn our attention to phase two, which will cover improvements at the museum itself.”