Campaigners rally outside the council offices earlier this year

Campaigners start legal action over Snibston closure

Rebecca Atkinson, 20.04.2015
Judicial review could force council to postpone closure
Campaigners fighting to stop the closure of the Snibston Discovery Museum in Leicester have made an application to the High Court for a judicial review.

The application, which was made by Louise Hall, a volunteer at the museum, and supported by the Friends of Snibston, includes an injunction that could force the council to postpone the closure. Hall, who has been at the museum for three years, is entitled to legal aid.

The campaigners have been trying to reverse the Conservative-led council’s decision to shut Snibston, but in February its motion to run the museum as an independent trust was turned down by the council on the grounds it was “financially unviable”.

The campaign group has questioned the council decision-making process regarding Snibston and called the closure “irrational”.

More than 80 people attended a public meeting last week to discuss the legal challenge.

Brian Vollar, the chairman of Friends of Snibston, told Museums Journal that two organisations, the Land Trust, a charity that manages open spaces in partnership with local communities, and exhibition designers Science Projects, attended the meeting and expressed an interest in taking over the running of the museum.

The Friends group is also writing to the secretary of state for communities and local government – a position currently held by Eric Pickles – to request a public inquiry into the planned closure.

Mark Argent, a Liberal Democrat candidate for North West Leicestershire, who attended the campaigners’ meeting, said: “A judicial review focuses on potential flaws in the process by which a decision was made, rather than simply asking for it to be overturned, but comments in the meeting gave me the impression that the lawyers think a good case can be made.”

The council needs to make £120m cuts by 2018 and has said that it cannot afford the museum’s £900,000-a-year running costs. It plans to close the museum on 31 July, sell the existing building to developers and create a smaller mining museum in the site’s adjoining colliery, a move that it says will save £580,000 annually.

Responding to the legal challenge, a spokesman for the council said: “The council maintains that proper processes were followed, to arrive at the conclusions reached by the cabinet. We will study the application in detail and assess the implications for the council. We cannot comment further at this stage.”

Comments

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Anonymous
MA Member
20.04.2015, 20:41
Judicial review could force the council to rerun its consultation process on the future of Snibston and this could potentially lead to a different outcome. If the JR application by the Friends of Snibston is successful then the closure date of end of July previously decided by the County Council for the Coalville based museum could well be set aside while the legal proceedings take place.
Well done to the Friends for getting this far.