MP criticises council on Stourbridge glass museum plans
Plans to close a museum housing Stourbridge’s famous glass collection will be “disastrous for the region’s heritage”, Ministers have been warned.
Lynda Waltho (Lab Stourbridge) said Dudley Council’s proposals to re-locate the Glass Collection, which contains 10,000 items celebrating 400 years of glass-making in Stourbridge, were a “short-term money-saving ploy”.
But she failed in her bid to convince Ministers to block the proposal, as she led a House of Commons debate condemning the local authority.
Culture Minister Barbara Follett said she was powerless to intervene, although she added: “I hope that Dudley Council will not take risks with the collection, which is so precious to the people of Stourbridge and the surrounding county, and that it will not implement any unnecessary or hasty closures.”
The authority is considering proposals to close Broadfield House in Stourbridge, home of the glass collection, which would be moved to Red House Glass Works Museum, also in Stourbridge. It insists it has made no decision on whether to press ahead with the plan, and is conducting a “robust and professional” feasibility study. The move would save the council £120,000 a year.
But Ms Waltho said the proposal was opposed by local residents, with 6,000 signing a petition urging the council to scrap the plans, as well as national organisations such as the Glass Association and the Victoria and Albert museum. Red House Glass Works Museum, also known as the Red House Glass Cone, did not have the facilities to house the glass collection properly, she said.
Ms Waltho told MPs: “The decision to move the glass museum, its assets, collections and archives from Broadfield House strikes me at best as a knee-jerk reaction to cut budgets and at worst as a deliberate attempt to undermine the heritage of my constituency.
“So far, I have not been convinced that the council has the preservation of the glass museum at the heart of its plans. It would be disastrous for the region’s heritage and for the glass industry if the collection were to be hidden away, not available for us to see and enjoy, split up or reduced in any way.”
Local campaigners had asked for details of the feasibility study but the council had refused on the grounds that it was “commercially sensitive”, she said. “Many campaigners fear that the study is a sham intended to pay lip service to the campaigners and that the outcome was decided months ago.”
Ms Follett warned that the Government would not become involved. She told Ms Waltho: “I know she will not be pleased that I must point out that the future of this collection and the funding of the Broadfield House museum is a matter for the local authority concerned.”