Row over Leeds museum’s ‘eviction’ claims

Members of the Horsforth Museum and Historical Society, pictured at Horsforth Museum, Leeds, in 2013. Picture by Simon Hulme
Members of the Horsforth Museum and Historical Society, pictured at Horsforth Museum, Leeds, in 2013. Picture by Simon Hulme
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A row has broken out over claims of “underhand” attempts by Leeds council officers to “evict” Horsforth museum and sell off its current building - despite there being more than 10 years left on the current lease.

Horsforth museum is housed in a building owned by Leeds City Council and shared by its housing office. However the council is due to move the housing office to a new community hub and sell the building for development.

However Horsforth’s Conservative councillors say they are “furious”. Meetings have been held in recent months with the councillors to discuss the proposal, but they claim the decision-making executive board has been left in the dark.

Coun Dawn Collins told colleagues in the council chamber that the town had lost many valuable community assets over the years.

“Horsforth residents will soon only have the museum - run by volunteers - left,” she said.

“And now officers are trying to close and destroy that.

“The museum is an extremely important asset to the people of Horsforth. The volunteers spend a lot of time looking after the objects.

“Not only am I furious that officers think they can evict the museum without any real effort to find them an improved and larger home, I believe officers have also been extremely underhanded and deliberately tried to mislead the executive board.”

Referring to briefing papers presented to the council’s executive board recently, she said that “at no point was the ‘tenant’ referred to as the museum. They only referred to them as ‘the tenant’.”

She urged the executive board to challenge the council’s own officers on “why they tried to mislead them”.

Her colleague councillor Chris Townsley was one of the founder members of the museum in 1982. He said he was outraged at the way the matter had been handled, adding the way the proposals were presented to decision-makers was “not transparent” and was “insensitive” to the community.

He has now requested a ‘call-in’ meeting next week to urge the executive board to rethink the matter.

A spokeswoman for Leeds City Council said: “As part of our strategy to bring community services altogether under one roof, we will be relocating the Horsforth housing office to the new community hub which will be located in the library.

“This will leave the current housing office building vacant and available for sale, which would raise much needed public funds in this time of austerity.

“Given that the museum is part of the same semi-detached block, we are currently having discussions with the museum about the options for their location.

“Officers have met with ward councillors on several occasions since October 2015 to discuss this proposal and will continue to consult with them and representatives of the museum prior to any final decision being made.”