Coventry museums may lose out on a £3m loan - Museums Association

Coventry museums may lose out on a £3m loan

Charity threatens to withdraw loan to Herbert Art Gallery
Patrick Steel
Coventry City Council has breached the terms of its £3m loan from the Alan Edward Higgs Charity, according to the charity's clerk, Peter Knatchbull-Hugessen. The money was offered to the council towards the redevelopment of the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum.

"The condition set was that a shadow board should be set up during the development of the Herbert museum," said Knatchbull-Hugessen. "There is no board for the museum, so we don't see how this has met the conditions of the loan."

The charity was told that the council would draw down the money earlier this year, but Knatchbull-Hugessen said it had heard nothing.

The museum plans to move to trust status in spring 2008, but Knatchbull-Hugessen said: "This trust is different from the independent model we envisaged when we offered the loan."

The Herbert Trust will include The Herbert Art Gallery and Museum, Lunt Roman Fort and the Prior Visitor Centre. Coventry's arts and heritage officer, Roger Vaughan, said it will allow the museum to "be more focused". "The council has seen the success of Sheffield and York, and would like to pursue a similar agenda," he added.

Vaughan added that there was no suggestion that funding from the council would be cut, although the museum would be likely to undergo "restructuring and reorganisation".

Staff at the museum are concerned about what this might involve. "We are like mushrooms, being kept in the dark," said one employee.

The move to trust status is meant to coincide with the completion of the museum's redevelopment in spring 2008.

At a glance

In 2005, Coventry City Council decided not to match fund £7m from the Heritage Lottery Fund and the European Regional Development Fund for the redevelopment of the Herbet Art Gallery and Museum.

Instead, it opted to spend the money on improvements to the roads and removing asbestos that had been discovered at the Coventry Transport Museum.

The Museums, Libraries and Archives Council and the Museums Association wrote to the council stressing the impact of withdrawing money from a Renaissance hub museum.

After a public outcry, a local charity, the Alan Higgs Charity, stepped in to fund some of the shortfall.

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