Blackpool's Showtown museum costs come under fire
A deal which will see the council pay £250,000 a year to lease space for Blackpool’s Showtown Museum has been branded ‘astronomical’.
Coun Gerard Walsh said the agreement over 30 years, would see the council pay out at least £7.5m over that time to use the first floor of the Sands Hotel on Central Promenade.
The deal also includes rent rises every five years which will see the annual cost increase to nearly £290,000 after 25 years.
Constructing and fitting out the museum is also costing £13m.
Coun Walsh told a meeting of the council’s tourism, economy and communities scrutiny committee it would have been better value for the council to buy its own building to house the museum in.
He said: “It is a missed opportunity – what could we have purchased for £ 7.5m, and the build is on top of that.”
Coun Walsh said had the council bought its own building, this would then have become an asset.
He added: “Is there any scope to renegotiate that figure, do we think it is market relevant now?
“It is astronomical. The starting point is £250,000 before we even open the front door.”
But council leader Coun Lynn Williams, who is also cabinet member for tourism, said the museum would be “a great addition” to the town and no other suitable sites had been found for it.
The meeting also heard the five yearly rent increases had been agreed to reflect inflation.
Initially it had been proposed to use space inside the Winter Gardens for the museum, but that £26m plan was axed in 2017 due to a funding shortfall.
Funding for the current scheme includes £4.4m from the Heritage Lottery Fund, £1.75m from the Coastal Communities Fund, £4m from the Northern Cultural Fund, £1.5m from the Lancashire Economic Partnership Growth Deal and £1m from Blackpool Council.
A council report setting out the lease agreement says: “Showtown has a robust and viable business plan.
“The cost of the rent has been taken into consideration in the development of the business model.”
The museum, which will tell the story of Blackpool and the seaside town’s role in the British entertainment scene, was due to open in 2022 but delays and the coronavirus pandemic mean it will not now open until April 2023.
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