A council chief has spoken of his “sorrow” that the National Rugby League Museum is unlikely to be housed in its spiritual home at the George Hotel.
Kirklees Council bought the iconic grade II* listed building with the intention of restoring it as a hotel and creating a museum space.
The council beat off other rugby league towns in a competition to locate the National Rugby League Museum at the George Hotel, the birthplace of the sport in 1895.
The announcement was greeted with excitement from rugby league-playing countries across the world, especially when it coincided with the Rugby League World Cup coming to Huddersfield.
Now, however, the council has been forced to back-track and town centre councillor Andrew Cooper has accused the council of reneging on a promise.
At a full meeting of Kirklees Council on Wednesday night Clr Cooper quizzed Clr Peter McBride, the Cabinet member for regeneration, who is responsible for the town centre revamp.
Clr McBride said as much as the council wanted the museum at the hotel it didn’t seem possible. Instead they were looking at the Cultural Heart area near the Piazza and the meeting was earlier told it could be housed in what is currently the library building.
Clr McBride said: “The council is seeking every means of properly locating the rugby league museum in the Cultural Heart of the town centre.
“If it’s not possible to locate the museum in the George, which seems to be the case, commitments given to the RL were given in good faith but the extension and very expensive work on the George suggests the relocation of the museum and rebuilding of the hotel may not be compatible objectives.
“If that’s the case the priority has to be the reopening of the hotel. A relocation in the Cultural Heart would be most fitting if not the perfect location from a rugby league perspective.”
Clr McBride said it had been the genuine intention to choose the George but that now didn’t seem possible.
“We honestly made a commitment to talk and presumed we could do that,” he said. “It would appear, from the evidence I have been given, that the two objectives cannot be met together.
“I am fully aware of the commitment and I am fully aware of the significance of the George and its relationship to rugby league.
“It was our honest endeavour to relocate in there but, as information turns out, the two objectives are not compatible.
“The primary objective of buying the George was to provide a first class hotel and if it comes to a choice of priorities, as it may well, the hotel is the priority.
“It’s with great sorrow that we cannot necessarily look at the two things together. It gives me no pleasure to say we may not be able to achieve that objective.”
Clr Cooper handed in a 7,900-signature petition calling on the council to honour the original agreement.