Hampshire Cultural Trust (HCT) has given Fareham Borough Council 12 months’ notice that it will be closing Westbury Manor Museum at the end of this year. The decision was taken following a strategic review which will see the HCT withdraw from six of the 24 facilities it currently manages. Ashcroft Arts Centre in Fareham is also set to close.
Hampshire Cultural Trust has been managing Westbury Manor Museum for the Council since 2014. Initially the cost of funding the Museum was shared with the Council providing an annual subsidy of £64,500.
In 2016 it was agreed that the Council would invest £448,000 towards the refurbishment of the Museum in lieu of an annual subsidy and the HCT shared its plans with the Council to ensure the Museum would be a vibrant and viable addition to the town centre. As a result, a new 10-year management agreement was put in place.
Six years later the HCT advised the Council that actually, this was not now the case, and they required further funding from the Council after all.
Cllr Seán Woodward, Executive Leader of Fareham Borough Council, said: ‘This is extremely disappointing news for Fareham as the 10-year agreement was signed in good faith and backed up with significant investment by the Council. HCT were confident they would deliver a thriving museum for our town centre. The Council is not in a position to further subsidise the HCT and, in any event, based on this turn of events, and indeed the similar fate of the Ashcroft Arts Centre, it feels to me that this would be throwing good money away.
‘Westbury Manor Museum and gardens are a beautiful asset in the heart of Fareham town centre and Fareham Borough Council has held many successful events there in recent years. At the end of last year, we started work on our exciting plans to regenerate the town centre and the future of the building will now be considered as part of that wider work.’