Huntingdon council push for freehold of Cromwell Museum

Members of Lord John Robartes Regiment outside the Cromwell Museum, in Huntingdon.

Members of Lord John Robartes Regiment outside the Cromwell Museum, in Huntingdon. - Credit: Archant

Huntingdon Town Council has rejected the offer of a 999 year lease for the building that houses the Oliver Cromwell Museum from Cambridgeshire County Council.

At a council meeting on Thursday (September 24) councillors unanimously agreed to send the lease proposal back to the county council.

The mayor of Huntingdon, Councillor Bill Hensley said: “We want to push for freehold rather than accept a 999 year lease.”

The proposal to transfer a 999 year leasehold of the Cromwell Museum building for its continued use as a public museum was agreed at a meeting of the county council’s general purposes committee on September 15 which was a U-turn on the decision made by the council in January.

County Councillor Michael Shellens who spoke at the town council meeting said: “It is unnerving for people of Huntingdon who want this problem resolved.”

Under the terms of the lease, it was decided at the meeting of the GPC that the town council will take over responsibility for the fabric of the building, while a new trust will operate it as a museum devoted to the life of Oliver Cromwell.

There are fears that if the council were only given a lease then there would be a struggle to get accreditation, that is due in October, from the Arts Council which will mean that it will lose out on much needed financial support.

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Councillor Thomas Sanderson said: “There is a misunderstanding about what we are trying to achieve here – because of the pressure on the county council’s budget they council cannot fund it. The town council would grant perpetuity to the trust to run a museum dedicated to Oliver Cromwell.

“I think we are best placed to take this forward.”

According to Cllr Shellens it expected that the matter will be called back to the committee in the coming weeks as 27 county councillors have formed a group to recall the decision.

“The matter needs 34 councillors to get it through only needs seven more to do this,” added Cllr Shellens.

Cambridgeshire County Council has been responsible for the Cromwell Museum since the local government reorganisation in 1974, when the building was transferred into their ownership with the demise of the old County of Huntingdonshire.