Call to move Chichester’s main museum to larger site

Councillors have speculated about the possibility of moving the Novium Museum to a bigger site.

Friday, 19th March 2021, 10:18 am

While there are no plans for any such move in the near future, some members of Chichester District Council’s overview and scrutiny committee felt it would be a good idea.

David Palmer (Con, Lavant) spoke about ‘having a museum which is much more ambitious and of a much higher quality than the one we have at the moment’.

He added: “My view is that the sort of museum I would like Chichester to have going forward can never be accommodated within the present confines of the Novium.”

SR2004272 Chichester. The Novium museum Pic Steve Robards SUS-200428-141731001

While stressing that absolutely no consideration should be given to closing the Novium unless it had somewhere else to go, Mr Palmer asked for the terms of reference, which define its purpose and structure, to include the possibility of moving to a larger home.

Roy Briscoe, cabinet member for culture, told the meeting he would consider this but added: “At the moment they stay as they are.”

The museum, which opened in Tower Street in 2012, is built over the remains of a Roman bath house, which fill much of the ground floor.

Tim Johnson (Local Alliance, Selsey South) asked what the current building could be used for should the museum ever move.

He said: “I’m aware that, as you walk in, the Roman exhibit on the ground floor is quite impressively stunning and I would like to see that maintained or kept in an equally impressive position.”

Funding for the museum is in place for the next year and Mr Briscoe, who chairs the Novium Task and Finish Group, said they would have to wait for a future services review before making any decisions.

He added: “I do value the museum in Chichester. Let’s face it, we’re a Roman city and we should play on that to bring the tourism in, for the locals to be aware of the historic nature of the city and for the education of our children.

“I can’t foresee a future in Chichester without a museum.”

In the meantime, the council has been looking at ways to improve the museum in an effort to attract more people – once the pandemic rules allow – and help generate more income.

The £1.7m of improvements proposed by consultants were deemed too expensive – it would take 18 years to recover the costs – so officers have been looking at smaller projects.

These included setting up large advertising banners outside the museum – which would need planning permission – and making improvements to audio visuals inside, particularly the use of holograms around the baths.

The meeting was told that officers were looking into whether any grant funding would be available to pay for some of the work.

They were also exploring ways in which to extend the Novium’s partnerships with other museums across the district.

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