For these dark January days we have good news! The first practical step towards substantial investment in an expanded Museum and Art Gallery to house the county collections has been taken. The Cabinet meeting of Herefordshire Council, held on 21 January 2021, endorsed the draft Town Investment Plan (TIP) for Hereford City. The final (TIP) will be submitted to central government by the end of the month and you can find full details on https://strongerhereford.co.uk/. This programme includes reference to plans to develop the whole of the current museum, art gallery and library building in Broad Street as a county museum and art gallery. The city library will move to a new learning centre to be developed in Maylord Shopping centre.
The museum project will maintain the Victorian façade, the Woolhope Room and other notable features, while transforming internal and external spaces. All areas will be fully accessible. Both the museum and library developments will be led by Herefordshire Council and together signal a very positive new future for the county’s cultural services sector.
Aside from the development of these new physical spaces, some of the other projects in the TIP will offer significant opportunities to improve delivery of services and stimulate new strategic directions. These include projects to develop digital skills and cultural programming. An outline of all projects are available in the TIP.
This remarkable change in policy deserves support from everyone who has backed the long-running campaign calling for investment in Herefordshire museum service. These proposals offer the potential to greatly improve access to the county collections as well as encouraging the development of new ways for our varied communities to be able to engage with and explore them. Our thanks go to Councillor Gemma Davies and her colleagues in Cabinet for recognising the potential contribution that the museum and art gallery collections can make to the cultural and economic life of Hereford city and, indeed, the wider county.
It is important to recognise that the submission of the Hereford TIP to access funds for these projects is only the first stage. Much remains to be done to secure additional funding and work up the detail of the ambitious museum and art gallery project. A very preliminary timetable indicates completion of project development and business case phases by May 2022 with a speculative date for reopening in spring 2024.
What you can do
One way you can show your support for these projects now is by writing to your local county or city councillor and/or to the Hereford Times and other local media. Register for updates on the https://strongerhereford.co.uk/ website and aim to take part in opportunities for stakeholder and public engagement as these arise.