Bodelwyddan Castle Trust fights council over future of venue - Museums Association

Bodelwyddan Castle Trust fights council over future of venue

Trust has submitted a formal complaint to the council
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Eleanor Mills
Bodelwyddan Castle Trust is fighting Denbighshire County Council over plans to sell off Bodelwyddan Castle in north Wales.

The trust, which runs the museum, has a 125-year lease on the venue that began in 1994, which would see it hold the property until 2119. But Museums Journal understands that Denbighshire County Council is in talks with the Warner Group, which runs the Bodelwyddan Castle Hotel, part of the castle, with a view to the group taking over the venue. The hotel recently underwent a £6m upgrade.

The trust has submitted a formal complaint to the council following a resolution at a council meeting on 18 July that the trust says assumes it would relinquish its rights to the lease.

A statement from the trust reads: “Bodelwyddan Castle Trust was dismayed to learn via the press that Denbighshire County Council’s cabinet had issued a resolution regarding the future of the castle at their meeting on 18 July. The trust was not consulted by the council prior to the meeting.

“Had this courtesy been granted then it would have been pointed out that there are some serious factual errors in the resolution as it stands, and this begs the question as to the validity of the confidential report that was presented to the cabinet.

“The resolution seems to assume that Bodelwyddan Castle Trust will relinquish its rights under a 125-year lease on the property and yet the trust has no plans to do this despite the considerable pressure that has been placed upon it."

The resolution follows the announcement in March that the council would cut the trust's annual grant of £144,000 to zero from March 2018.

This resulted in seven redundancies, including that of Kevin Mason, who had served as director for 19 years, and the premature end of loan agreements with the National Portrait Gallery (NPG), V&A, and Royal Academy, that saw the museum display over 150 works from the national museums.

According to Mason, who retains a role as the trust's company secretary, the funding cuts meant the trust could no longer meet the government indemnity requirements for the works, which were returned in March and April.

The trust's partnership with the NPG dates to 1988, and saw the national museum contribute to the lighting, interpretation, repair and maintenance of the works. The NPG has lobbied both Denbighshire County Council and the Welsh government to reconsider the decision to reduce funding.

The trust rehung the gallery with paintings from its collection with the help of a £31,000 grant from the Welsh government.

The trust has also been awarded a £38,000 Heritage Lottery Fund Transition Fund grant to create a commercial business plan so that it can survive without council funding.

The trust is demanding the withdrawal of the council's resolution, and is preparing to go to the Ombudsman if necessary. It has also written to Ken Skates, the Welsh government's cabinet secretary for economy and infrastructure.

A spokesman from Denbighshire County Council said: “We are currently in discussions in relation to Bodelwyddan Castle and cannot comment further at this stage due to the commercial nature of these discussions.

“There has been open dialogue and communication with the trust throughout about the financial position and these are not matters that we will discuss through the media. Any issues on the work of the trust is a matter for them to comment on.”

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