Seal of approval for new steamboat museum

First published in News The Westmorland Gazette: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter

A £13.3 million tourist attraction has cleared the second of two hurdles in the space of a week - after winning vital planning permission.

The Lakeland Arts Trust was today given permission to redevelop the Windermere Steamboat Museum at Rayrigg Bay near Bowness by the Lake District National Park Authority.

And last week, South Lakeland District Council also contributed a £200,000 grant to help the multi-million scheme unlock further funding.

Ten members of the LDNPA’s development control committee unanimously agreed the application - to the visible delight of the trust’s chief executive Gordon Watson, and London-based architect Andrew Groarke.

The current museum on the shores of Windermere has been shut since 2006.

Providing certain conditions are met, it will be demolished and replaced with a cafe, wet dock, exhibition centre and workshop.

There will be 112 car parking spaces - a rise on the previous 87.

Expected to open in 2015, the new museum ‘of the highest design quality’ will house a significant collection of more than 40 historic boats on the seven acre site.

Applicant Mr Watson told the committee it would create ’94 direct and indirect jobs’ in education, engin-eering, conservation, admin-istration, operational staff, reception, shop and cafe - as well as safeguarding others. Estimated annual visitor numbers are put at around 100,000.

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Paul Haggin, a planner for the LDNPA, told the committee: “These buildings are not very inspiring today. This can afford to be different and contemporary. It’s a £13 million investment, £10 million of which depends on a bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund, and on our decision today.”

Member Anne Hall told the meeting: “I do love the industrial look of this and with a modern slant. It’s important we shouldn’t forget that as well as our natural beauty, we had an industrial past as well.”

At the meeting of SLDC’s Cabinet last week, Coun Graham Vincent said: “It will protect a unique collection of boats and will provide the public with a dynamic museum. It really has got it all.”

Conservative opposition leader Coun David Williams, who represents Bowness South, said: ‘There’s a perception in my area that SLDC is only ever interested in taking money from the lake and putting it elsewhere. This proves that to the contrary.”

Commenting afterwards, Gordon Watson, of the trust, said: “We are pleased that Cabinet has recognised it will bring great benefits to the local economy and create employment.”

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