Posted: Wed 25th Nov 2020

New £16.6m archives facility in Mold needs lottery funding and there’s no back-up plan if bid is knocked back.

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Wednesday, Nov 25th, 2020

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Plans to move Denbighshire’s archives from Ruthin Gaol to a new £16.6m facility in Flintshire depend on lottery funding – but there’s no back-up plan if the bid is knocked back.

Denbighshire council’s cabinet agreed in principle to moving the county’s historical and cultural artefacts and documents to a purpose-built building at Theatr Clwyd, Mold, during a meeting on Tuesday.

The joint venture with Flintshire county council’s archives department would free up 70% of the space at Ruthin Gaol, allowing it room to improve its “tourism offer”, councillors heard.

The Gaol is expected to run out of space for the archives within two years and Flintshire is looking to move its records office from Hawarden.

Councillors were told storage for Denbighshire’s archives was too damp and was inappropriate for the collection.

Environmental management and air cooling systems would cost more than £700,000, according to a report.

A joint £11.5m grant application to the National Lottery’s Heritage Horizon fund is in progress which, if successful, would pave the way for the new purpose built, passivehaus (eco-friendly) archive adjacent to Theatr Clwyd.

Ruthin Gaol

Denbighshire council’s contribution would be up to £2,034,521, but without the grant the scheme is dead in the water – and it emerged there’s no back-up plan.

When asked by cabinet member for planning Cllr Mark Young what their “Plan B” was, should the grant not materialise, business information team manager Craig Berry said: “I think it’s safe to say we haven’t got a lot of detail for Plan B.

“It’s something we have to do. We do need to start thinking about a Plan B in case this doesn’t work out.”

The joint archive service with Flintshire council was set up in April this year and a decision on the lottery funding is expected next June.

A report on the proposals said: “It’s estimated that the investment needed for the archive service to remain at the Gaol will prove more expensive by 2035 than the £2 million required for the new build.”

Both Cllr Huw Hilditch-Roberts and Cllr Emrys Wynne voiced concerns over  Ruthin losing the archive service, although Mr Berry assured them visits to schools to display archives would be facilitated by the move.

The changes are also being sold as a potential boon for the gaol with a host of improvements to the “tourism offer” being promised, such as:

-Immersive cell experiences
-An outdoor ‘escaped prisoner’ trail
-A play area
-A large multi-function room
-Bringing together Denbighshire’s heritage collections
-A dedicated area for archives/family history activity

Officers have established a £65,000 pot to make the changes if the archives do end up moving as planned.

Moving the archives would bring nine more members of staff, councillors heard, with “state-of-the-art conservation facilities and “an injection of funds that would enable collections to be taken out to communities”.

The plan has been endorsed by The National Archives, the Archives and Records Council Wales, the Archives and Records Association of UK and Ireland and Welsh business minister Ken Skates MS.

Council leader Hugh Evans said moving the archives and improving the offer at Ruthin Gaol was “probably an opportunity too good to miss”.

Jez Hemming – Local Democracy Reporter (more here).

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