National Coal Mining Museum at risk of closure due to spending cuts


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The Independent Online

A fourth museum in the North of England is now under threat from impending Government cuts, it was claimed today.

The National Coal Mining Museum near Wakefield in West Yorkshire is at risk alongside Bradford’s National Media Museum, the National Railway Museum in York and the Museum of Science and Industry (MoSI) in Manchester, according to city leaders.

Chiefs from the 11 local authorities across the Leeds City Region have written to the Chancellor raising their fears over the future of the popular attraction.

Created on the site of the Caphouse Colliery at Overton, which was first sunk in the 1770s, it opened as a museum in 1988 and was granted national status in 1995.

It currently attracts around 100,000 visitors each year to see the pit baths, Grade Two listed boiler house and brick chimney as well as learn about the industry which was the driving force of the local economy for nearly two centuries.

In a statement the leaders said: “The Council Leaders are equally concerned about potential funding cuts to the National Coal Mining Museum for England in Wakefield. Funding for the National Coal Mining Museum is now contracted through the Science Museum Group.

“This funding is ring-fenced until 2015, but after then it’s up to the Science Museum Group how much funding the National Coal Mining Museum receives, so any further cuts to the Group will inevitably affect its future viability.”

Last week demonstrations were held in Bradford where local MPs and councillors have warned that the possibility of closure raised by National Science Museum Group (NSMG) director Ian Blatchford last week would kill regeneration efforts in the city “stone dead”.

Mr Blatchford said that an anticipated 10 per cent cut in his budget – which is shared between the northern museums and the Science Museum in London – would result in the closure of one of the attractions outside the capital in order to preserve world class status of those that remain.

The move has prompting furious accusations of metropolitan bias and claims that the northern institutions are being sacrificed to save the Science Museum in London.

An internet campaign to save MoSI is backed by Manchester academic Dr Brian Cox, whilst supporters of the National Rail Museum will gather in York tomorrow to express their fury over the threat to the most visited museum outside London.

The future of the museums will become clearer following the Chancellor’s spending review later this month and any recommendations will be put before the advisory board of the (NSMG) in the autumn.

However Lord Shutt told the House of Lords that 22 members of the 24-strong were based either in London or Cambridge.