Thousands of people have backed a petition as Snibston Discovery Museum faces an uncertain future
Campaigners are calling on new supporters to join more than 7,000 signatories on a petition urging Leicestershire County Council to rethink its plans for Snibston Discovery Park, the popular rural museum, theatre and country park threatened by a dramatic local funding cut of around £110 million.
© Ashley Dace, geograph.org.uk
Having celebrated 21 years at their Ashby Road site last June, the Friends of Snibston spent the latter part of 2013 drumming up awareness of the Save our Shed petition, named after the words of the county council leader, Nick Rushton, who reportedly labelled the heritage site “a shed”.
Their cause has been rewarded with a greater response than the council’s recent consultation on its budget proposals, leading to an extension of the deadline for the petition, which says the authority has a “civic duty” to fund the “nationally important site”, until January 12.
Responding in the Leicester Mercury, Councillor Rushton said the £740,000 annual council funding of Snibston “cannot be sacrosanct”.
But John Legrys, the Labour district councillor for Coalville, said the running costs were less than half that value. “I know businesses who are interested in using it as a caravan and camping site, or for pop events,” he added, discussing grounds which include Victorian collieries holding Scheduled Ancient Monument status.
“They have approached the county council and been turned away.”
Brian Vollar, the chairman of the Friends group, said the petition “shows the depth of feeling” towards the protection of Snibston.
“Council leader Nick Rushton has said nobody beyond Coalville is interested in Snibston but that's not what our petition shows,” he added.
"We have support from across the county."
Councillor Richard Blunt, the cabinet member for heritage, leisure, and arts, said the museum would need to “change its focus” by 2016.
"If you leave Snibston open and close 50% of the libraries I think you'll find more than 7,500 people would be really hacked off with that decision,” he retorted to the BBC.
"The new offering on Snibston I'm hoping will be better and more focussed on the mining heritage.
"We don't want to turn our backs on it, we want to create a more sustainable offer."
The Park recently hosted a sold-out show by comedic doppelganger Alistair McGowan and a hard-hatted, multi-instrumental variety show paying homage to the mining past of the area.
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