'I've never been there' - chairman's museum confession ahead of sealing its fate
PUBLISHED: 14:49 14 March 2019 | UPDATED: 14:49 14 March 2019
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A planning committee chairman confessed to never having visited a city museum - just before casting a crucial vote to seal the demolition of its current home.
Plans for more than 200 new homes off Barrack Street in Norwich were approved by the city council’s planning committee by the narrowest of margins; plans which will also see the demolition of an annex of St James’ Mill which houses the John Jarrold Printing Museum.
While artefacts from the museum have been promised a new home in the development, campaigners hoping to preserve it as it is say this new home will not be fit for purpose.
After close to two hours of debate, the committee was finely split on the plans, with chairman Keith Driver left in a position where his vote could sway the decision either way.
Ahead of the vote, Mr Driver, Labour councillor for Lakenham, angered campaigners - who had filled the public gallery - by confessing to having never visited the 37-year-old museum.
He said: “I’ve never been there, I must admit, however I believe the history it celebrates will be opened up to the wider people of Norwich by this proposal - particularly to children.
“At the moment it only opens three hours a week, while the new location would be open five days a week. That can only be good for Norwich.”
Campaigners including current museum volunteers attended the committee meeting, including Paul Nash from the Printing Historical Society, who was drafted in to speak on their behalf.
He said: “Jarrold is a working museum, allowing members of the public to be directly involved in the process of printing. The value of hands-on experience in understanding the past and exploring the creative possibilities of print can hardly be exaggerated.”
The now approved development’s provision for the museum is smaller than the current location and therefore means working functions of it will be lost.
However, city planners told the committee the council was powerless to protect the museum - which is privately owned by Jarrolds - from closing if the company saw fit to do so.
The application was approved by seven votes to five.