£4m grant will bring Weald and Downland museum ‘into the 21st century’

Weald and Downland Open Air Museum. Below: The draft plans
Weald and Downland Open Air Museum. Below: The draft plans
0
Have your say

EXCITING plans are in motion as a £4m lottery boost helps bring Weald and Downland museum ‘into the 21st century’.

The museum, in Singleton, hopes its gateway project will build on its existing success.

artist's impression of Weald and Downland, Gateway Project

artist's impression of Weald and Downland, Gateway Project

“It is not just about the museum being given some money, it is about the future,” said director Richard Pailthorpe.

A focus on facilities aims to ‘transform’ the attraction and allow it to ‘reach out’ to new audiences.

“We are calling it a gateway project because it is a gateway to the museum, but also because we will be working in partnership with other organisations – it is the bigger picture,” said Mr Pailthorpe.

However the county council’s decision to award a £100,000 grant to the museum has come under fire.

Michael Jones, labour county councillor for Southgate and Crawley Central, demanded extra scrutiny when the West Sussex County Council’s Kickstart funding was announced this month.

At a special meeting last Wednesday, cllr Jones accused the council of ‘behaving like it is the local district council’ due to the fact it was ‘pouring money into Chichester’. He did insist his objection was ‘not specifically directed at the museum’.

A strong response though came from Jeremy Hunt, cabinet member for education and skills, who said: “To suggest this is just a local museum is a bit like saying Gatwick is of no more importance than Goodwood airfield.”

The plans for the museum’s future include galleries that will be built to aid to the visitor experience, while a ‘highly-flexible annexe’ will increase education and community opportunities.

“We are very much a community museum, we have several hundred volunteers and this will enable us to reach out more – it is about welcoming new audiences. A museum like this can have a big role,” Mr Pailthorpe said.

Chairman of the museum’s trustees, Paul Rigg, said the Heritage Lottery Fund would provide ‘world-class visitor facilities’ to match its ‘unique heritage collection’.