2021 looks like being one of the most important years in the history of Chard Museum. This is because we will have to renew the museums lease in a time of economic change and how Councils manage and use their funding. Times have changed significantly since the last renewal over twenty years ago.
South Somerset District Council (SSDC) have proposed two options:
· pay annual rent of £5,000 (a reduction from the existing £9,000) with the caveat that the Museum society takes over the maintenance, repair, insurance and utility bills for the site..
· offer to purchase the freehold for a price of £70,000. This would also mean the Museum takes on the maintenance, repair, insurance and utility bills.
There are no other lease options on the table presently. If we fail to renew or purchase the lease and cannot renegotiate another scenario then the Museum will need to consider closure.
I talked last month about the importance of changing our status to become a Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO). Without that change we would be irresponsible in proposing that the Members accept either SSDC option or an alternative.
Gathering the necessary information to understand the financial and practical risks, and obligations in undertaking either of the two options proposed by SSDC goes beyond our expertise. We need to consult with experts who have experienced similar situations. The museum has successfully applied for a feasibility grant of £8000 through the Architectural Heritage Fund (AHF). This allows us to employ an experienced project manager and to then liaise with professionals to undertake necessary surveys of the site and its buildings. These will assess the state of the buildings, the thatch, disability access etc. and support us going back to SSDC with any potential counter proposal.
This project will start in July, with provisional results expected to be completed by late October. The decision to proceed with the lease renewal is so important and complex it needs the support or not of the members. As a result it is now likely that the AGM will be postponed until October or early November. We will then able to present a full financial appraisal and strategic plan.
The newsletter is the ideal ‘messenger’ to keep you all informed on the feasibility study, its impact on future options and our (the Trustees) proposals for the future. Every month I will keep you up to date with our progress. Please continue to follow these reports. It is important that you understand the work we are undertaking to maintain and develop this wonderful museum for the future.
Any specific questions can be directed to myself at email@example.com.