Cost projection casts doubt on 'history centre'
MOVES to create a "history centre" at Royal William Yard appear to have been quietly shelved.
The new centre would have housed the threatened Plymouth and West Devon Record Office.
Plymouth City Council has been given until next year by the National Archives to find a new home for the record office because the existing building in Coxside is unsuitable.
Last October the council said it was considering a "cultural hub" to include the Museum and Art Gallery stores, South West film and television archives and the record office in the Factory Cooperage at the former Navy victualling yard.
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The council set aside £2million for the project and said it would be putting the proposal to the Heritage Lottery Fund and other funds.
But The Herald has learned that a feasibility study in April showed that the project would cost up to £20million – £8.5million more than anticipated.
Now the city council has admitted that it is appraising several other premises in the city. It has also "reprofiled" the £2million, spreading it over the capital programme for the next three years.
Cllr Peter Smith, deputy leader of the council, said: "Nothing is ruled in and nothing is ruled out. We have questioned whether Royal William Yard is the ideal site."
But he said he believed the council would meet next year's deadline to rehouse the archives.
Todd Gray, chairman of the Friends of Devon Archives, said: "In April the council told us that it was considering sites other than Royal William Yard. They are considering a building behind the City Museum and Art Gallery.
"We worry that this is dithering, but we have also been concerned that the Royal William Yard option is too expensive for the council to handle at the present time.
"This latest building is the 20th site that I know of that the council has considered.
"We have a deadline next year set by the National Archives to come up with concrete plans or the records could be taken into care.
"Royal William Yard would be a great spot and a showcase building, but my concern is just for the records. I don't care how dowdy it looks on the outside."
He said the council had created the problem by giving planning permission in 2001 for a tyre depot next to the records office, creating a fire hazard.
Mr Smith said a building behind the city museum was one of several being considered.
A council spokeswoman said: "The provision of a history centre remains a priority. The protection and retention of the city's archives is related to the history centre but their retention in Plymouth is not dependant on the development of the history centre, although the plan is to ensure that the two are considered together.
"The delivery of the history centre will require significant external funding."