Kirklees Council could be at risk of legal action over the state of the Tolson Memorial Museum, a councillor warns.

The deteriorating condition of the Grade II listed museum could put the council in conflict with its legal duties.

The authority is corporate landlord of the museum while the council’s planning authority has a duty to take enforcement action if the owner of a listed building allows it to fall into an unreasonable state.

Clr Scott says its current condition does not meet its listing status.

It means two council departments could be in conflict with each other and an outside body like English Heritage could be called to step in.

Clr Scott, Almondbury Lib Dem, said: “The council must not cause the building to fall into a worse state than when it was listed.

“The council may have to take legal action against itself if they have cause to believe it’s not being maintained, yet the council is conflicted – this has been confirmed by legal.”

Clr Scott asked Kirklees Council leader Clr David Sheard what plans there were to repair the museum, the roof of which has leaked.

 

Clr Sheard replied: “I have no plans. I am aware of the problems we have with many listed buildings in our ownership, I am aware that we have not got the finances available.

The amount required to put the Tolson back into its former state would take 90% of the council’s total budget to repair all of the buildings it owns.”

Originally known as Ravensknowle Hall, the building was gifted to the Huddersfield Corporation in 1919 as a memorial to Leigh Tolson’s nephews who died in the First World War. It transferred to Kirklees Council when the authority formed in 1974.

The Kirklees Liberal Democrats say £2m is needed to make the museum wind and watertight.

Kirklees predicts a modest overhall could cost £1m with a refurbishment topping £5m and a radical redeveloping totalling £8.3m.

Clr Scott says a wind and watertight building could attract asset transfer interest.

It should never have been allowed to get into this state,” he said.“The electrics, the boiler and the roof all need attention.

“It makes sense for the council to do some essential work so it has the potential for an asset transfer. No-one would take on the building as it currently is.”

The Almondbury councillor responded to criticism in the council chamber that he was only after a boost for his ward by saying: “I’m elected to serve my ward – it’s what every councillor should do.

“Yes, I understand the wider budget pressures, but this is a municipal museum enjoyed by people outside of my ward.

“The Cabinet has allocated £4.4m for Pioneer House in Dewsbury, a listed building they got through a CPO. I’m not against them spending money on it, but they need to balance it across Kirklees.”

Clr Scott said he will take advice from English Heritage and the Civic Society while a petition has been launched to urge Cabinet to find the money for the museum.

A Kirklee Council spokeswoman said: "“The council is undertaking a Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) which  will be subject to wide consultation.
"The CSR includes council land and buildings and whilst the outcome of the CSR is undecided, investment is prioritised for health, safety and welfare of customers, colleagues and visitors as well as legislative requirements. 

"Where possible, assets are kept available for use pending the outcome of the CSR process.

"As a consequence, some repair work has been completed at Tolson Museum for the safety of staff and visitors as well as to keep the museum open, but significant longer term investments are on hold pending the outcome of CSR.”

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