Kirklees Council has finally confirmed that Tolson Museum is to close and two local councillors have launched a petition, angry at the lack of public consultation.
Liberal Democrat councillors Paola Davies and Alison Munro have repeatedly asked questions over the museum’s future but it was only last week that confirmation came.
Now the councillors are urging people to sign their petition and attend Tolson Museum’s Christmas-themed Victorian Fayre on Sunday (November 27) to show their support for keeping the museum open.
At a meeting of Kirklees Council’s Economy and Neighbourhoods Scrutiny Panel it was confirmed that the museum, which celebrated its centenary earlier this year, will no longer operate as a museum when the Huddersfield collections it contains are transferred to the new Huddersfield Museum planned for the Cultural Heart in the town centre.
This follows years of uncertainty, a decision to close it in 2016 and then a reprieve after thousands of people supported a campaign to save it.
The building was given to the people of Huddersfield by Legh Tolson in memory of his two nephews killed in the First World War. There’s a strict covenant which means the building can only be used for education or recreational purposes.
Clr Davies (pictured above right with Clr Munro) said: “Tolson Museum was gifted to the people of Huddersfield, so the people of Huddersfield should have had a say on its future. Any plans for the site should have taken into account the needs and wishes of the local community.
“As ward councillors and representatives of the local community, we do not feel that we have been properly consulted.
“Since 2016, we believe that the Cabinet has been intent on running the museum down. They have restricted the museum’s opening hours and significantly restricted its funding, which would have enabled it to change its displays.
“Tolson Museum is a much-loved institution. It’s a hugely important asset and should remain as a museum for the people of Huddersfield.”
Speaking at the panel meeting, the council’s service director for culture and visitor economy, Adele Poppleton, said the museum service would leave Tolson when the new museum was opened and work was ongoing to find a new use for the building.
While the museum is not for sale, the council is open to offers from community groups or a charitable trust to run the Grade-II listed building as a community asset.
Clr Davies’ Almondbury ward colleague Clr Munro accused the Labour-run administration of “ripping the heart out of our community heritage” and added: “The council has a duty of care to Tolson Museum, and they have to be really careful about how they proceed with the building and its collection.
“I’m really concerned that we will end up with another building left to rot, just like the George Hotel. What is the administration doing to protect the building and protect its heritage and how will the building be protected once it is closed?”
Clr Davies has put together a petition, which condemns the administration’s decision to close the museum without local consultation and demands that the council retains it as a museum.
The councillors will attend the Victorian Fayre, which is taking place at Tolson between 11am and 4pm on Sunday and are encouraging people to go along and show their support for the museum.
You can sign the petition to save Tolson Museum at: http://chng.it/8BbbfQWL