Bristol tax payers facing extra £1.8m bill over museum

Wednesday, September 10, 2008
TAX payers look set to fork out another £1.8 million on the Museum of Bristol project – £500,000 of which should have been paid by a developer. Bristol City Council has already used more than three quarters of the money put aside for unforeseen costs in the £24.7m scheme, so is asking for another £1.3m to cover it. And delays to a neighbouring commercial development at Wapping Wharf also spell trouble for the museum.
The city council was relying on Wapping Wharf developer Umberslade to pay £500,000 towards the museum as part of a legal deal to give it planning permission, a section 106 agreement. But council officers now say the development is unlikely to go ahead in the near future, which means the £500,000 – and possibly a further £1 m also expected from the developer – could now have to be found from council funds.
The state-of-the-art museum is being built in the landmark 1950s transit sheds that were home to the former Industrial Museum, near Prince Street Bridge. The latest £1.8m increase in its estimated costs, due to go before the ruling Labour cabinet later this month, is the latest in a series of spiralling costs for the museum, which only a year ago had a estimated cost of £19m. The project was first due to open in July 2009, was put back to 2010 and is now put at 2011. The former Bristol Industrial Museum was closed in October 2006.
A report to councillors stated that more than 75 per cent of money put aside for unforeseen costs for the museum had already been used to meet problems relating to: underground conditions; repairs to damage revealed when the transit sheds were stripped to their basic structure; design changes; and late release of details by the design team. The report said the project board has now recommended an increase in the project budget of £1.3m.
It also said that as the adjacent Wapping Wharf development was now unlikely to proceed soon, works under the section 106 agreement will not provide any income to the council. This means that the council is likely to have to find at least £500,000 it thought the developer would provide. The Wapping Wharf scheme by the Floating Harbour is not expected to be completed until 2018, and will include 625 homes as well as shops, cafes, restaurants, offices and a hotel.
Geoff Gollop (Con, Westbury-on-Trym), chairman of the council’s resources scrutiny commission, said: “It’s a disgrace. “The problem now is that it’s very much a fait accompli – once something is established you keep paying. The answer is to tighten up on the authority’s commissioning process so that proper estimates are put through. I don’t know how long Wapping Wharf will be delayed but the implication of this report is that it is unlikely to proceed in the short to medium term. “The money that was going to be available is not going to be available, so tax payers’ money will have to be spent on it.”
A council spokesman said: “The changes to the Museum of Bristol project budget would provide a realistic contingency for the remainder of the scheme. “This ambitious project- one of our city’s major new developments- will be a great addition to Bristol”.
The Evening Post repeatedly contacted Umberslade but no one was available for comment.

Work is well under way to create a new museum at Bristol’s Harbourside.

28 August 2008
The new £25-million Museum of Bristol is being built in the landmark 1950s transit sheds that were home to the former Industrial Museum, near Prince Street Bridge.
Bristol City Council, which is running the project, say it is scheduled to open in 2011 and will bring the city’s history to life.
At the moment the structure is covered with scaffolding as building work continues. The builders are currently putting in a steel frame on the second floor which will create the temporary gallery. This work will be done over a period of time as the frames are put in place in sections. Casting works of the new passenger lift and goods lift for the centre of the building are being undertaken, and cladding is being put on the north elevation which overlooks the harbour. The firm in charge of the building work expects the first of the refurbished sliding doors to be completed soon. The museum, where entry will be free, will be dedicated to the history of Bristol and the people who have lived and worked here.
It has been made possible with a £11.3m Heritage Lottery Fund grant, and support from Bristol City Council, Renaissance South West and the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council.
The whole site – the sheds and their quayside – is one of the last remaining complete 20th century docksides in the UK.
The Museum of Bristol is being hailed as an essential part of the regeneration of Bristol’s Harbourside, which it is hoped will attract local, national and international visitors.
Curators are currently deciding what displays will fill the museum, including the new glass rooftop gallery, which is being added to the original sheds to create an additional exhibition space. What is known is that it will be full of old favourites alongside new exhibits, and there will be personal memories and stories of people who have lived and worked in Bristol. The museum’s working exhibits – the historic boats, trains and cranes – will play an important role and will continue to operate.


Evening Post 09 November 2007
The new Museum of Bristol on the harbourside is set to become the city’s answer to the massively-overspent Bath Spa Project, claim the city’s Tories. The Conservative group on the city council raised its concerns after it was revealed the flagship project was already more than £5 million over budget – and building work has not even started. Design fees (an extra £1.37 million), building costs (£2.1 million) and other charges have soared since the council earmarked £19 million for it last year. The Tories say they fear the scheme could face problems similar to Bath’s revamped spa project, which finally opened last year, four years late and at almost four times its original cost. Conservative group deputy leader Geoff Gollop said: “I knew costs were rising, but this is madness. I think we could be comparing it to Bath Spa because we don’t know what additional costs may be lurking. “We are seriously vulnerable here and we need to assess the risks. “There is a good case for a museum of Bristol – but not at any price. For me, I think £20 million would have been the upper end.”
But Councillor Rosalie Walker, who is executive member for leisure, said: “This is a marvellous project and it’s going to be very successful. “We’ve gone through the whole thing with a fine toothcomb. “It’s more money than it was last year, I agree. But I would be horrified if it ended up being anything more than the new figure of £24.7 million. “It will not be a cock-up like Bath Spa. We don’t want that to happen.”
The extra “base build” costs at the former Industrial Museum – which do not include fitting out for exhibitions – are put down to a variety of causes. They include inflation, planning requirements and the need to incorporate air handling units to take air-conditioning to gallery spaces in the museum. As for higher consultancy fees, it might almost seem the council is blaming the public. A contemporary new building was planned. But that all changed “in response to public opinion”, says a council report. It says the “uplift” in design fees follows the switch to a restoration approach to the 1970s former transit shed. “Additional elements” had also been designed into the project, says the report to next Thursday’s meeting of the ruling Labour cabinet.
Its members are being recommended to go ahead with the project at a total cost of £24.7 million. The extra £5.7 million cost will force the council to borrow another £5.1 million. The rest will come from reserves and other sources. Added borrowing will have to be funded from various sources – including the existing Industrial Museum budget and “staffing savings in the museums service”. The Heritage Lottery Fund, which is putting well over £10 million into the project, sees the Museum of Bristol as a nationally-important project. The council believes it will enhance the harbourside and be a cultural lever for the city’s regeneration. It also hopes the museum will be one of a host of new attractions that make Bristol the envy of European competitors. In a survey, around four people in five – outside the city as well as inside – said they thought the new museum was “just what Bristol needs”. If the cabinet gives the go-ahead 13 November , contractor HBG is expected to start work on site in January. The museum would open in June 2010 and stage its first temporary exhibition in 2011.


Evening Post 16 August 2007
The new £19 million Museum of Bristol has been hit by delays, which have pushed back the opening date to 2010.Bristol City Council had set an opening time of July 2009 for the new museum, which will be on the site of the former Industrial Museum at Prince’s Wharf on the city’s Harbourside. But a number of problems, including a failure to recruit a project manager in the nine months since its predecessor shut means the museum’s opening date is being pushed back by at least six months. The council says the museum should be open “as early as possible in 2010” – but would not be drawn on when that might be. One civic campaigner described the move as “another museum cock-up” and said it was unfair on the city’s museum goers.
Stephen Wray, the city’s director of culture and leisure, said the process of choosing building contractors had turned out to be more complex than originally thought and there had also been delays in recruiting a project management consultant to move the scheme forward. He said: “Our original hope was to be able to open the new museum in 2009. “These factors mean the project will not now be completed until 2010. Whilst we recognise this new museum is eagerly awaited by many residents, it is important to take the time needed to ensure we can deliver a high-quality facility that all of Bristol and its wider city region can be proud of – particularly given its high profile location on the Harbourside. “These few months’ extra delay will, I believe, be a small price to pay for the many long-term educational, cultural and economic benefits that the finished facility will offer.”
Bristol Civic Society’s libraries and museums expert Peter Harris said: “It’s just another museum cock-up. “It seems typical of the council and I think it’s a very unsatisfactory system, but I’m not surprised by it. “The council has made such a fuss about the Museum of Bristol and it seems unfair people will now have to wait longer for it to open.” The city council set out an opening time for the museum of July 2009 in its funding plans which went to cabinet in March last year.
Under the plans, Bristol Industrial Museum at Prince’s Wharf would be transformed into a state-of-the-art attraction. The Industrial Museum pulled in around 120,000 people a year – but the council hopes the Museum of Bristol will attract nearer 250,000. The 1950s building is made up of the L and M Sheds, both of which will be kept and refurbished. Its north facade will be preserved and will have new sliding doors with a new entrance. There will also be a single-storey roof extension and ground-floor cafe as well as a roof-top function area. A new city centre community is also being planned for the Wapping Wharf site, with 600 new homes, shops, restaurants and a 150-bedroom hotel.
The Industrial Museum closed its doors for the last time on October 29 last year. Some of its 700 exhibits were moved into storage but the iconic cranes and trains will be preserved as a key part of Bristol’s industrial dockside heritage. The new museum is likely to display anything from Banksy’s art to pieces of Bristol Blue Glass, photographs of the St Paul’s Carnival to pictures of the Bristol riots of 1831. Mary Bailey, chairwoman of the Bristol Magpies, the museum’s friends organisation, said: “It was always going to be a tight time-scale to deliver something like that in two years – it’s a tall order given the resources they’ve got.” She added: “The main concern is that what they deliver is a good product and I would rather that they spend more time making sure it’s a first-class museum rather than it gets rushed through. “Some of the content the staff have been coming up with is really exciting and if it all comes together it will be a really great museum that people can enjoy.”

Plane Tree next to the Bascule Bridge near Queen’s Square

Planning Application Summary.
The council’s developers are asking for permission to demolish the tree and the adjacent building called M shed. They are to be replaced by a 3 level building where the tree is located and a 4 level building where M shed stands (see super imposed images of proposed building on the tree), the O shed will also be rebuilt. The whole development will be 4 bars/restaurants (18,257 sq. ft.) on the ground and first floors and 12 flats on the 3rd and 4th levels.
Application details: The developers Cordwell Leisure Developments Ltd and MCD Developments Ltd. submitted two (2) planning applications on the 14th May 2007 which can be viewed on the planning section of the Bristol City council website under these planning numbers and links.

  • 07/02136/F Construct a 4 level building with 4 Bar/restaurants & 12 flats
  • 07/02137/LC Demolition of the tree and M shed

Princes Wharf Industrial Museum REDCLIFF BS14RN

7 March 2007: permission was granted for the Museum of Bristol development. Sue Thurlow presented the PWAG statement. There was clearly a lot of genuine support from the committee members for the fact that the plans have been shaped by public opinion and as far as possible preserve the heritage of the dockside. Sue and her group must be thanked for their contribution to the achievement of this milestone.
Febuary 2007: planning decision will be considered by the Central Control Committee on Weds 7th March. The meeting starts at 6, but the running order won’t be published until Weds 1 March.
June 06: Princes Wharf Action Group object to the inclusion of. trees, semi-permanent public art and unnecessary street furniture in the proposed new Princes Square in the Whapping Wharf development at the Development Meeting
March 9th 18:00: 31 page detailed report for Bristol City Cabinet meeting to discuss the new Bristol museum
January 2006: plans for the new Bristol museum have been sent back to the drawing board.
September 2005: Act now and protest against this redevelopment! A modern glass structure to replace the historic sheds! This is the last vestage of Bristol’s Docks past. Why on earth did they not use the McArthur building! Please join the Princes Wharf campaign group and protest now before it is too late!
There are two online petitions that on the Bristol City Council website. One is concerned with the design of the building and the other is asking for more open and public consultation.
Letter from Dorothy Brown

Evening Post letter 27 September
by Geoff Rogers
Indeed, one wonders whether the idea of a Museum of Bristol on the present site is worth pursuing at all – leaving aside the issue of the awful intended reconstruction of the shed’s frontages. It is common knowledge that the present Industrial Museum is not big enough and that thousands of items are locked away and never seen by the public. The original plan was for the new museum to expand into the L-Shed next door, thus increasing the display area quite substantially and enabling the long and varied history of Bristol to be covered over a wider spectrum – the maritime history of the city alone would occupy half of the present space, if it was done properly. But apparently this is not now the case, and after provision had been made for a large atrium, a cafe and a restaurant, the space available for exhibits will be less than at present. So spending millions of pounds of lottery and council tax-payers’ money will result in a museum that is smaller and less informative than the present one. Quite frankly, what is the point? Gone will be most of the lorries, cars, buses and aero engines, and there is no provision for an engine shed (draw your own conclusions). In its place will be more of an arts and cultural centre with audio/visual attractions, which would have been fine if the original plans had been pursued, but not if they are to replace what is there at the moment. I don’t think this will be acceptable to the people of Bristol and a drastic rethink is required. Perhaps the Industrial Museum should be left as it is (smartened up a bit by all means) and the MoB set up on another site in a different form. To me, it was not surprising that none of the “experts” on the panel were Bristolians and, with a couple of exceptions, did not seem to grasp that a museum of this type should be all about what the citizens want, not what “outsiders” think they ought to have.

The Evening Post wrote on 15 September 2005 WE MUST PRESERVE DOCKSIDE
Don’t destroy our heritage – that was the message from more than 100 people worried a new Museum of Bristol could destroy a vital part of the history it is intended to celebrate. They were at a public meeting on the plans to replace the Industrial Museum on the harbourside with a new glass-fronted building commemorating all aspects of the city’s past.
The architects behind the new museum designs want to gut the existing building, leaving only the steel frame in place. The project has secured provisional funding of £11.1 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund, providing the body approves the plans. But one campaigner, Andy Foyle of the Princes Wharf Action Group, told last night’s meeting that the existing museum building was itself an important piece of Bristol’s history. He said: “The plans are using Heritage Lottery money to destroy heritage. To see a museum doing this is an extraordinary thing.” Tim Belston, of Shirehampton, said he felt the last thing the dockside needed was another modern building. He said: “I feel the past should be retained.” Roger Smith, 60, from Knowle, called the proposed museum a “monstrosity”. Wearing a black armband with the words “Bristol’s Past” written on it, he said: “Bristol has make-over after make-over in favour of the past. Princes Wharf should be kept in its entirety instead of this monstrosity.”
A panel made up of Mr Foyle, Crawford Wright, museum of Bristol project manager, Kate Brindley, the city council’s director of museums, galleries and archives, Alastair Brook, from the council’s urban design team, and Madge Dresser, a history expert from the University of the West of England, answered questions at last night’s meeting, which was held at the City Museum on Queen’s Street. Nick Childs, from the Harbourside Design Forum, chaired the meeting. The council had been hoping to submit plans for the new museum to the Heritage Lottery Fund this month but has been asked to delay until January to allow more time for consultation.
Bernard Seward, 66, of Henleaze, one of the volunteers who helps run the Print and Pack workshops at the Industrial Museum, told the meeting: “I am concerned that they are prepared to exchange a living, organic, working museum where we have trains and cranes for a relatively sterile environment graced with light and air conditioning. “There seems to have been no provision for workshops or support services. They seem to think that the volunteers are dispensable.” City centre resident Elizabeth MacKenzie said: “We don’t need an iconic building in the city dock. This has been a very secret exercise.” Alan Salter, of Saltford, is also a volunteer at the museum. He said he was concerned that, if the Industrial Museum was pulled down, the story of Bristol would lose its context. He said: “I take school parties around the museum and I tell them about the story of Bristol in the context of the museum. I don’t see how this new building will fit into the context of our beautiful city and its history.” Christine Curry, of Brislington, said: “I think Bristol is an amazing place, but I don’t want to see these plans ruined before consultation.”
Ms Brindley confirmed that the train, cranes and boats that make up the Industrial Museum would not be abolished in the project. She said: “These are important parts of the museum and we are committed to maintaining them. “The project has heritage at its heart. The aim is to create a world- class museum to present our collections and the museum will give us the space to do this.” She added: “The volunteers do a fantastic job and we are working to accommodate them.” Mr Wright said the team would be considering the points raised before they put the bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund in January.
Anyone with further comments can write to Museum of Bristol, Freepost NAT, 18800, BS1 5BR or e-mail crawford_wright@

The Evening Post wrote on 20 August:
KIRSTY PUGH K.PUGH Plans to develop the Industrial Museum on the Harbourside have attracted fierce criticism from a concerned campaign group. The Princes Wharf Action Group was formed a few months ago when the plans for the new Museum of Bristol began to formulate. The group, which has a dozen members, are opposed to the current modern designs for the building, which they feel will strip Bristol of an important part of its dockside heritage.
Mary Bailey, group member and chairman of the Bristol Magpies, the museum’s friends organisation, believes that the idea for a new museum is an excellent one, but the current plans will take away part of Bristol’s history. She said: “A Museum of Bristol will be an excellent way to tell the city’s story, but it is a shame that by building one, they will be changing part of Bristol’s story.
“We want to preserve a bit of heritage and history along the dockside. The current building should be incorporated as part of the new museum. “It is clear from the current proposals that the frontage of the transit sheds are going to be changed considerably. “We don’t want to impose our views on other people, but we would encourage as many Bristolians as possible to go and view the plans and decide for themselves.”
Expected to open in 2009, the new museum has already attracted a pledge of financial support worth more than £10 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund. The design put forward by Lab Architecture Studio will utilise many of the structural elements of the existing L and M Sheds, preserving the historic dockside cranes and railway line. Their proposals include designs for a Story of Bristol Gallery, exploring the city’s identity as a great trading port and its role in the transatlantic slave trade. They are also suggesting a rooftop Panorama Gallery, which will utilise the views of the city from the site to help visitors understand Bristol’s growth and development over the centuries.
Other people in Bristol have also expressed concerns about the plans. One concerned museum volunteer said: “I believe the majority of volunteers at the museum have grave doubts about the proposals. The new museum will be a sterile electronic environment. The Industrial Museum’s buildings are a part of our docks heritage and should be restored, not mutilated in the manner proposed. “Much of the work is to be funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, which I believe has the aim of enhancing and preserving our heritage, not destroying it.”
The museum scheme is a key element in the city council’s ambitious plans to strengthen Bristol’s cultural standing and maintain its position as one of Europe’s most vibrant cities. Council spokesman Simon Caplan said: “It is important to stress that nothing is set in stone regarding the proposed Museum of Bristol yet. These are merely the architect’s initial ideas for the building and have not yet been agreed by the council. “Indeed, there is a long way to go before the Museum of Bristol project becomes a reality – funding still needs to be finalised and, of course, planning permission would be needed before anything could go ahead. “This week’s exhibition and the release of the images is a start of a major consultation programme to discover people’s views about the architect’s initial ideas and what they want from such a museum. “We are acutely aware that there are many issues about heritage, size, impact and appropriateness that need to be considered on this site. “Against those we have to weigh whether the current building can work as a world-class museum or whether it can be retained and adapted.”
Designs for the building went on display on Tuesday at the Architecture Centre on Narrow Quay, and will be on show until September 18.

Feasibility Study and Working Group for Old Mills Colliery Engine

Andy King 2005

Bristol Industrial Museum are to fund a feasibility study to investigate the possible re-erection of the Old Milk Colliery winding engine. A consultancy has been appointed and a working group formed in connection with Richard Maggs of Radstock Museum which has invited local councillors and interested parties to work with them.
The engine is the single largest item in Bristol Museums and Art Galleries Service’s indoor collection and spent its life at Old Mill Colliery outside Radstock. The engine was acquired when Bristol was collecting for a new museum on Castle Park which never materialised and when the service’s collecting area for local history extended much further than it does today. There is almost no likelihood of its display in the city, yet there is a considerable ground swell of interest in its return to Radstock.
The engine is of some significance in coal mining history. It is believed to be the earliest colliery winding engine to survive nationally, having been built in 1861,and is very representative of the simple, robust, inefficient machines commonly used until the 1930s. It was made at the foundry at Paulton, near Radstock run by the mineowner William Evans and it is the largest product of this works to survive. The engine worked for over a century until the final days of the North Somerset coalfield hauling wagons of coal and spoil to the surface. Shortly before the pit closed British Coal commissioned a film of it at work. Bristol Museum acquired the engine in 1966.
Dismantled the engine occupies approximately 32 square metres and assembled it would measure l0m x 7m and stand 3m high. It weighs approximately 28 tons.
BIAS Chairman Stuart Burroughs has been asked to join the working group in 2006 and to represent BIAS’s position on the future for this important engine.


The Bristol Industrial Museum has reprinted two books of local interest for publication in December 2005.

  • “The History of the Somerset Coalfield” by C. G. Down and A. J. Warrington. Originally published in 1971, this book is considered by many to be the definitive history of coal mining in Somerset. Containing many photographs, maps and diagrams, this 288 page hardback book costs £25 plus £2.75 for delivery.
  • “My life as a Somerset Miner” by A. J. Parfitt.(Price £4.50), while “Somerset Mining Memories” is available on DVD or video at £15.99.


An update from the Industrial Museums in the region

Bristol Industrial Museum

Andy King
An appointment is soon to be made of an Assistant Curator, thus returning the team to full strength, a situation which has not existed for some years.
As a contribution to national Museums and Galleries Month, May will feature four themed tours of the museum stores, with items being selected to represent the Stuff of Working Life, complementing the current City Museum’s Stuff of Life prograrnme.
The Bus Weekend will take place on 2Oth/2lst. May.
Subsequent events include

  • the Harbour Festival on 22nd./23rd,/24th. July,
  • another 1940s Weekend with a VJ day theme (l3th./l4th. August)
  • a Docks Heritage Weekend, 10th./llth. September