Tring & District Local History & Museum Society

Registered Charity No.  1053276

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Dacorum Borough Local Plan 2020-2038


(The consultation closes on 28th February)


These comments have been made to our landlord, Tring Town Council in relation to Policy TR06 of Dacorum’s draft Local Plan, which threatens our continued existence.  Please support our case by looking up the consultation on www.dacorum.gov.uk/localplan and making your views known.


Background

The Society was formed in 1994 at the instigation of Tring Town Council (TTC).  Registered as a charity, it set out to create a museum for the Tring area, an aspiration held by many, and one that had been thwarted in 1975 when Dacorum District Council, having purchased the historic Grace’s Mill at 15 Akeman Street to establish a museum, abruptly decided not to proceed with the idea.  


In 2006 the Society signed a lease with TTC for the office of the Cattle Market; funds were raised locally and a successful joint bid made to the Heritage Lottery Fund.  The building was remodelled and converted into a museum, which opened in 2010.  Staffed entirely by volunteers, in normal circumstances it is open to the public free of charge on two days a week, and receives typically 2,000 visitors per annum.


The Society does not have any remit in regard to planning matters.  The Local Plan proposal TR06, however, directly concerns the museum site and threatens our continued operation.  The Trustees are strongly opposed to the proposal and urge the members of TTC to support their position.


The building

Constructed in 1893 by Tring Park Estate, the museum building was designed by William Huckvale in the characteristic Rothschild estate style.  Unlisted, but abutting the Conservation Area, it is symbolic of the town’s heritage as a market centre.  It makes a strong contribution to the street scene and the general character of Tring, making it an asset for the town in attracting visitors.  The successful restoration to its original appearance, and its conversion to a museum, was Highly Commended in the Chilterns Design Awards 2011.  It is very suitable for our present requirements, and there is a viable option to extend it westwards, to enhance its scope and facilities.


Relationship to TTC

The Society’s relationship to the council is, in our view, highly and mutually beneficial.  Having six years remaining of a 20-year lease, the Museum enjoys a favourable rent, partially offset by an annual grant, with every expectation of renewing the lease in 2026 for a further 20 or more years, giving us confidence to plan ahead, especially for our Phase 2 building project.


Relocation

It is glibly stated that the museum could be ‘relocated’.  While that is no doubt strictly true, no indication is given as to any alternative location, how it might be achieved, or who might pay.


We might have no option but to move to a site less advantageous in terms of footfall.  We might have to settle for a less satisfactory building, given the high cost associated with the design and construction of anything comparable to our present building.  We might be obliged to accept a site with only our existing square footage, with no scope for future enlargement.


We are a voluntary, unincorporated society with no equity in the present building, and have insufficient financial resources to establish a new museum elsewhere.  Having received a Lottery grant for the present building, it seems unlikely that we could secure another for a replacement building; the National Lottery Heritage Fund would probably take the view that whoever found it necessary to relocate a perfectly satisfactory museum should bear the costs of doing so.


We might find ourselves the lessees of a different and less favourably disposed landlord, with a commercial outlook and no commitment to public service, and providing no certainty of future tenure.  The likelihood is that an unaffordable market rent would be expected for a new building.


An unwanted burden would be placed on our wholly voluntary organisation to put any relocation into effect.  Copious and thankless effort would be required merely to regain the status quo, effort which could instead be devoted to developing the present museum.  Our activities would be greatly disrupted, and damage to our credibility and reputation would be likely to result from an enforced move.  We are now close to the point of achieving the sector standard of Accreditation, which we would expect to forfeit until such time as the replacement facility was considered comparable.


If no agreement could be reached on the relocation of the museum, or sufficient capital secured to fund it, we would find ourselves homeless when the current lease expires.


A huge amount of work was entailed over 24 years in bringing the only public local history museum in Dacorum into existence, largely achieved by volunteers.  The museum engenders a great deal of support and goodwill from the Tring community.  All of this would be effectively written off, as would the significant public investment, represented by Tring Town Council’s enduring support and by the 2007 Lottery grant.


With the town population set to grow, one would think that the local authority would regard a museum as an asset, offering an understanding of the place to help with community cohesion.  No evidence is given that the museum is valued; on the contrary, it is posited as an impediment to growth.  Rather than support it, the proposal merely presents it with unwanted obstacles.


Related considerations

The museum enjoys a good relationship with Tring Market Auctions which, as the successor to the cattle market, is part of the heritage and tradition of the immediate locality and of the town in general.  We benefit in that Auction customers are frequently visitors to the museum.


The Forge car park occupies a northward vista from Tring Park mansion, a Grade II* listed building originally by Sir Christopher Wren set in parkland listed for its historic value, and ought to be valued for its open landscape significance and never be built on.


The open nature of the space north of the museum helps in the visualisation of the Cattle Market as it was, but the space needs to be utilised.  We have outline ideas for related outdoor activities that might take place there.  We suffered when the Farmers’ Market was relocated, and its return would be advantageous.  If it were decided, as consented, to use it for parking, that would also benefit us.


No reason has been advanced as to why the relocation of the museum should in any case be necessary.  Demolition and new construction carry heavy and undesirable environmental costs.  Visually, the flank wall of 10 Brook Street is not unduly appealing.  There is no reason why the museum should not be retained on the present site, designed into any proposed development and forming an attractive and positive element of it.  The existing tenure could continue, and with only minimal disruption, the museum could continue to flourish.


Tim Amsden, Chairman, TLHMS, 11 January 2021