Future of Novium Museum at Chichester to be debated in secret

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The future of the Novium Museum looks uncertain as Chichester District Council’s (CDC) cabinet prepares for a secret debate on how it will continue operating.

It follows concerns over the rising running costs and difficulty in generating income.

In February the cabinet was told CDC was subsidising the museum to the tune of £832,700 a year.

And it approved the spending of £30,000 for a consultant to carry out an options appraisal for future management of the museum, the Guildhall and the tourist information services.

The appraisal looked at continuing to operate the services ‘in house’, establishing an ‘in house’ trust or contracting the management out either to an established trust or to a private contractor.

In a report to cabinet which will take place behind closed doors on Tuesday (July 12), officers warn the options being discussed ‘may affect the ongoing business of the museum’.

They said: “The purpose of the report is to approve the investigation of further options beyond those already being considered.”

In November 2014 CDC scrapped the £7 entrance fee at the Novium as part of a bid to increase visitor numbers.

They took the decision after hearing footfall over the previous two years had not been as high as hoped.

At that meeting museum manager Cathy Hakes presented a five-year strategy for the tourist attraction, stressing the Novium was only two years old and “with the best will in the world, we do still need development time”.

But four months ago overview and scrutiny committee members heard the biggest financial headache was building depreciation, business rates and a ‘lack of widespread advocacy for the museum’.

The Novium opened in July 2012 in premises built by CDC in Chichester’s Tower Street at a cost of £6.9m. It relocated from Little London and incorporated a new Tourist Information Centre. CDC sold the former museum building and adjoining Tower Street site for £2,465,000 to offset the building costs.

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