OPENING MUSEUM TO THE PUBLIC
DEV. PHASE 1
It was either fated, or the most incredible set of coincidences, that brought the Generating Station's savoir together. For sure, without him, the proud new owner in 1981, had it in mind to demolish what they saw as a liability. That was until he was running short of change, and wanted to secure the skills of his best decorator & handyman.
PHASE ONE: 2-3 YEARS >> 2023-2026
The first, most obvious, and easily achievable stage, is to open the doors on the Generating Buildings, to the public in 2024. Even though the Trust will be operating at a considerable loss and almost entirely dependent on volunteers and friends of the Museum. The aim being to attain accredited Museum status. Allowing 2-3 years to achieve.
Even if it is not possible in 2024, or for a number of years hence, for visitors to enjoy seeing the National Gas engine and batteries in the Battery Store. It puts Herstmonceux Museum on the map.
Provided that a suitable constitution is in place, such as already formed many years ago, as Lime Park Heritage Trust, and the Museum is equitably sustained to be able to remain open to the public, year on year, it should be possible to develop other attractions, to become self-funding, at least in part. Examples of which are seen at (for example) Drusillas, Knock Hatch, and the Observatory Science Centre, at Herstmonceux Castle.
Consents granted for up to 140 houses in the adjacent field, representing favorable case precedent for development of the Museum in various guises. Subject to the same conditions as to materials, where local authorities are bound to remain consistent within their own parameters.
It is fortunate, that the Museum can open to the public as part of Phase One without the need to apply for planning permission. By way of kick-starting these ambitions. Where planning applications and the appeals that sometime follow, are at this time beyond the means of the Trust.
It is known that other heritage and rescue proposals/applications in the District, were resisted, and therefore had to be appealed to the Secretary of State, at considerable expense. Though in at one instance, costs were awarded to the appellant, against unreasonable refusal. And in the other instance, temporary permissions were granted. These form additional useful case precedents.
The present planning history, needs to be corrected, to properly record the archaeological value and originality of the extant buildings. Though, the Information Commissioner may be of some assistance in this regard. Perhaps, as a more cost effective method of data correction. Where local authorities are bound to erase incorrect information held on their records and substitute with accurate records.
This not having been achieved thus far in over 35 years, suggests that the present system may not be fully geared to protecting heritage assets. Such as those that are not immediately obvious to the onlooker. Or, alternatively, present as competing development, against opposing interests. This may include, as and where appropriate, suitable satisfaction in relating to the perceived historic disadvantaging.
Councils (not necessarily aimed at our local authority), tend to view Museums and Charities rather differently. More geared to, and perhaps favoring property they might gain from financially, directly. Rather than via tourism and heritage assets to the locality, where taxation is much reduced.
An unfortunate fact is, that Museums tend to lose money, especially small concerns. And, Lime Park is not that well suited to the foot traffic as it increases. Thus, it is unlikely that the Museum would be able to generate sufficient income from visitors alone, to be able to undertake restoration works of the magnitude that would enable even 'tentative' World Heritage Site inclusion.
That can of course be overcome with sufficient investment and forward planning. For example, a dedicated car park might be provided at a later date, and we might work with other heritage assets and tour operators and the Tourist Board, to enrich visitor experience, and garner popularity. But all such aspirations require the financial wherewithal. Presently suffocated before gestation.
EMINENTLY RECOVERABLE - An aerial view of Herstmonceux Museum in 2022, showing the public footpaths north of the generating buildings. Many of which are unregistered, but well trodden for over forty years, from our records.
Historic buildings need uses, for their owners/occupiers to be able to transcend, from trading to grading.
What at first seems like an impossible goal, might, if taken in smaller phased stages, become a reality. The ultimate objective is to restore the buildings to as near as possible, the original state in 1936, before electricity generation and battery power storage ceased. For that, we'd need a Business Plan, sufficiently well thought out, to be achievable, as a long term aim.
This in turn might attract limited investment from the UK and UNESCO, and even philanthropic contributions. We are already indebted to our volunteers and trustees, for giving freely of their time.
It is likely to be many years before the ultimate aim of displacing any existing uses, to be able to completely gut the buildings, so as to be able to reinstate a National (or similar) gas engine, and any machinery and associated equipment. For example, there was ice making equipment and an ice well on the site, that together with the export of vegetable and electricity, ice would have been another product for export. Allow something 10-15 years to achieve. But this may be more, when it comes to UNESCO standards.
The suggested 'Phases' will (hopefully) be developed with the cooperation of local and national government, and suggestions therefrom.
There were many other contributors. If you know of any information that may help us complete this story, please get in touch.
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