Lancashire County Council has approved the sale of Preston’s “family silver” – that is to say buildings that have been in public ownership for decades. Deputy Leader of LCC County Councillor David Borrow made the decisions in a series of meetings behind closed doors. The buildings include the Museum of Lancashire, the Fulwood Library, Winckley House, 58-60 Guildhall Street and Guild House in the city centre. It is understood that Fulwood Library has been attracting offers of around £475,000.
It has been suggested that Fulwood Library is being looked at by restaurants and bars, with the intention of turning it into a unique dining venue. This has received criticism, however, for many reasons including the community impact that the sale of the library may have, and the fact that it the sale of the library will do very little to alleviate the County Council’s deficit:
LCC Cabinet Member Marcus Johnstone, who has the portfolio for cultural services, said:
“The Museum of Lancashire is going to a regimental charity – they will be running it in future.”
This comes after a fierce campaign from local residents to keep the Museum of Lancashire open, including UCLan student Zoë Ainsworth, who spearheaded a campaign to commit the SU to taking a corporate stance against the closure and sale of Lancashire’s museums. Miss Ainsworth’s campaign did not receive the quota of support needed via the Students’ Union’s ‘The Student Voice’ module, and therefore was not taken forward for debate.
The Pulse approached Miss Ainsworth for comment, who said,
“Well I was already upset with the decision to cut funding for museums. It’s disgusting that heritage has been put at the bottom of the list, because it is a big part of our social and educational life.
“It’s understandable that the Lancashire County Council have approved the sale of Museum of Lancashire, because unfortunately there are no other options when you cut the funding of a museum. It’s just a shame that these museums, that have always been “publicly owned” are becoming businesses.
“It’s no longer about education or community, it’s about bringing in the money. It’s that loss of a heritage community that is so upsetting to me. I just hope that this sale is beneficial to the museum; we will just have to wait and see.”
The sale has attracted criticism from the Conservative and Liberal Democrat groups on the County Council, who accuse the Labour administration of selling the county’s heritage.