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Council to appoint design team for museum works

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West Berkshire Council has compiled an agreed shortlist of companies that could carry out work on the historic museum

WEST Berkshire Council is in the process of trying to appoint a professional design team to carry out major work on the district's historic museum.

The West Berkshire Museum, which opened in 1904, has been closed to the public since last October, when it closed its doors for a minimum of four years while planned refurbishment work takes place.

The district council has stated its intention to safeguard the future of the historic Wharf building, parts of which date back to 1620, by making it fit for purpose in the 21st century through the restoration of the historic Grade I listed Cloth Hall and Grade II listed Corn Stores and the replacement of the 1934 link building with a new entrance and access hub.

A condition survey in 2004 identified around £500,000 of required works to the historic fabric, while an estimated £600,000 of work was also identified as essential in 2009 to make the building compliant with fire and safety regulations.

As a result of all the works deemed necessary to address the problems, the overall capital cost has been estimated as £2m, although the value of construction works relevant to the design team is approximately £1.3m.

Last October, the council pledged £1m over the next few years to save the museum from permanent closure and it has now commenced a development phase to engage a professional design team to develop its proposals.

The council recently compiled an agreed shortlist of suitably qualified and experienced companies, from which it will soon issue formal invitations to tender in the coming weeks, with an anticipated appointment due to be confirmed by the end of April.

Council spokesman, Phil Spray, said: “This work will include detailed architectural and engineering design, construction costs estimates and a detailed project plan and timetable.

“The completed development programme will also outline a future collections policy and the way in which the collections will be exhibited.

“This essential pre-construction work is being funded with £84,500 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and £75,000 from the council.”

Mr Spray added that the pre-construction work would result in a detailed planning application and an application for listed building consent, while he said the HLF would then be asked to consider a grant application to fund this project.

It is understood that upon successful application of the round two application, the council would receive a grant of about £999,900, provided it stumps up £815,000 in matched funding as part of its pledge.

However, the council has previously had an application for the project turned down by the HLF in 2009, with a recommendation that a revised application be submitted with a closer focus on the community learning and participation aspects of the project.

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