St Albans Museum set to move to Old Town Hall

PUBLISHED: 10:33 08 March 2012

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Archant

A TEN-year vision to improve the museum service in St Albans by transforming the Old Town Hall has been unveiled.

It is widely felt the current Museum of St Albans (MOSTA), situated in Hatfield Road, is no longer fit for purpose due to its location and poor layout. The building is also in need of major improvement.

The ruling Tory group on the district council this week revealed plans to relocate the museum to the Old Town Hall in a bid to breathe new life into the building and better showcase the history of St Albans.

Council leader Julian Daly said: “At present we’ve got a good museum but it is in the wrong place. The current building is a creature of its time and is no longer fit for purpose.

“At the same time the Old Town Hall is an architectural gem in the heart of the city but it doesn’t have much going on with it.

“Rather than have two buildings that do not work, we want to bring life back into the Old Town Hall by relocating the museum. It could be much more of an attraction if we spent some money and put something attractive inside.”

The proposals would see an extra 300-plus sq ms added to the Town Hall through mezzanines, basements and by building out on the external stairs on the Chequer Street side.

That would create more up-to-date display space as well as gallery and meeting space. It is hoped the move would increase the number of visitors and encourage more school visits.

The Civic Centre had been explored as a potential home for the improved museum but it was ruled out as the building did not have the right feel to it and would have presented a weak case for external funding.

The plans would also see the Roman Verulamium Museum expanded by 50 per cent in the next 10 years to provide more temporary exhibition space.

The cost of relocating MOSTA would amount to somewhere between £2 to £5million with a further £5 million needed for the improvements to the Roman museum and surroundings.

It is hoped that the majority of the funding can be sourced from the Heritage Lottery Fund, The Arts Council, other trusts and charities and from the selling off of the existing MOSTA site.

Cllr Daly continued: “The move to the Old Town Hall would be good for the reputation of the city and will have not only cultural benefits but also economical as it will hopefully bring more people into the city centre.”

But he admitted that there could be some issues with the proposals, particularly as the Town Hall is Grade II listed, and there could also be complications with the selling off of the MOSTA site.

Gels Picciuto, who owns Kashu restaurant close to the current MOSTA site, has said he would welcome any proposals to improve the museum but is concerned about what a selling off of the site could mean for his business.

He said: “We would really like to know what would be the intention of whoever takes over the building as we are concerned about how any development would affect our business.”

The proposals are due to go before the cabinet next Thursday, March 15.

What do you think? Email us at hertsad@archant.co.uk

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