Museum move for council’s top brass

The Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon. The Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014
12:30 PM

North Devon Council hopes to move its ‘corporate centre’ from the civic centre as part of a bigger plan to sever ties with landlord Devon County Council.

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The Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon.The Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon.

NORTH Devon Council is planning to spend £80,000 renovating, and moving senior officers to new offices in the Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon.

The council hopes to move its ‘corporate centre’ from the civic centre as part of a bigger plan to sever ties with landlord Devon County Council.

The majority of staff are expected to be relocated to the council-owned Brynsworthy Environment Centre and Lynton House.

But the council’s executive committee will be asked on Tuesday to approve money to upgrade the Grade II listed museum on the Square and refurbish existing office space for 13 members of Civic Centre staff.

According to a report by the council’s technical services manager, a recent survey highlighted a number of health and safety concerns and the need for ‘urgent’ upgrades.

The report said existing work space is ‘extremely cluttered’; technology is ‘out of date’; there is no heating; toilet facilities need refurbishment; and lighting is ‘poor’.

Some artefacts could be stored off-site possibly at the Old Ice Factory in Fair View.

An inspection carried out by fire officers in February highlighted a catalogue of ‘major issues’, including blocked fire escapes and overloaded plug sockets.

The council argues that the work needs doing, and the new offices would not infringe on the public museum space.

But the plans to relocate staff – including chief executive Mike Mansell – have come in for criticism by shadow leader Des Brailey, who said he felt senior officers should not ‘isolate’ themselves from lower-level colleagues.

Councillor Brailey, who was part of a team of councillors who took part in a fact-finding tour of various Barnstaple locations, including Castle Street and the Guildhall, told the Gazette: “Actually the museum is the pits to be honest with you, and I do understand what they are doing.

“However, it’s not conducive in my view to have the hierarchy going in there.

“I believe if you are the head of something you should not isolate yourself; you should be where your staff are.

“If you want to speak to the chief exec about something, you should be able to pop along the corridor to see him.”

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