Property developer saves Explosion! - Museums Association

Property developer saves Explosion!

Explosion!, the cash-strapped museum of naval firepower at Priddy's Hard in Gosport, is to be taken over and managed by Verve Properties, a London-based property developer.
Patrick Steel
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Peter Chegwyn, a councillor at Gosport Borough Council, which is currently responsible for the museum, said: 'It will be properly run and probably better run than local authorities could run it. We have spent many months trying to secure its future without costing the taxpayer £300,000 a year.'

Although the details of the deal are still being negotiated, Ashley Nicholson, the managing director of Verve, said very few changes will be made to the museum, which is located in a Grade I listed building. There are plans to turn the museum's existing cafe into a waterside cafe bar and restaurant and to market the exhibition space more aggressively for functions.

Nicholson plans to improve bus links and water transport to the site. He also hopes to bring in more visitors with the development of a hotel and business spaces at Priddy's Hard.

Although Verve will manage the museum, the council will continue to own the collections. Nicholson said that there would be some reorganisation at the museum but all the main exhibits would remain.

No decision has yet been made on the future of the museum's stores, although David Martin, the leisure and amenities manager at Gosport, said that the council was currently looking at 'what needs to be stored and whether it can be moved to another location owned by the council'.

Both the council and Verve want the museum to open seven days a week, but until the details of the deal are finalised the museum will continue to open only at weekends, following a decision by the council in April (Museums Journal May 2007, p9).

It is not clear whether the museum's two remaining members of staff will be retained once Verve takes over at Explosion! Three of the borough council employees who previously worked at the museum were made redundant at the end of March and two were redeployed, alongside one county council employee. A second county council employee retired.

Verve will resubmit the details of its plans to the council later this month and hopes to put in a formal planning application by the end of September. Work will start on the redevelopment of the museum and the Priddy's Hard area in early 2008.

No date has been finalised for when Verve will take over the management of the museum.

Patrick Steel

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