Bromley Council bosses have voted unanimously to relocate the borough’s museum from Orpington despite opposition from community groups.
The council executive made the decision to move the museum exhibitions to Bromley Central Library later this year at a meeting on Wednesday (June 10).
Museum services at The Priory – the borough’s oldest building will cease from October, which the council says will allow it to make big savings.
The new museum at the library would be made up of two permanent exhibitions – ‘Bromley Revisited’, a history of the borough, and a display of the John Lubbock collection.
A space for temporary exhibitions to be changed twice a year will also be available.
Two museum staff are facing redundancy as the exhibitions at the library would be manned by library employees.
The council says the relocation to Bromley town centre will attract more visitors, allow for longer opening hours and provide better access for disabled visitors.
History subject leader at Perry Hall Primary School in Orpington, Gill Hughes, set up a petition in December urging the council to rethink its plans, which was signed by around 500 parents and teachers.
Gill Hughes with Perry Hall Primary School pupils
She told News Shopper: "I am very disappointed at the executive's decision to close the museum at the Priory.
"It means the children of Orpington, especially those attending local schools such as Perry Hall and St Paul's Cray, will no longer be able to visit a museum on their doorstep.
"None of the children in the borough will now be able to enjoy varied and exciting holiday activities, previously offered at the Priory.
"What is the council's legacy for the borough's children now?
"The museum exhibitions which are being proposed at the Central Library will be a poor substitute for a visit to a museum at such an important historic building as the Priory."
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Phil Waller, of the Orpington History Organisation, said: "The recent executive decision is no real surprise even though it goes against every heritage based cultural principle in everyone of us.
“On the impact of the closure everyone close to this situation is primarily concerned about the impact to the extensive value of the museum service.
“It's not just the museum that closes, the museum service was more than just what was or wasn't in the Priory.
“We were very fortunate to have had a museum.
“It needed improving with resource and investment - not reduction and then withdrawal."
The Priory, Church Hill, Orpington
Executive councillor for renewal and recreation Peter Morgan said the new ‘high quality, permanent spaces’ would display the most important objects from the local history collection.
Coun Morgan said: “The Central Library currently receives 468,000 visitors, including 200,000 active users, each year, which is many times more than the museum.
“Disability access is far better at Central Library and the opening hours are longer.
“Additionally, moving the museum to the library will complement the Local Studies and Archives service located there.”
Coun Morgan said an independent review commissioned by Historic England confirmed the museum remaining at the Priory was not a viable option.
Plans to put the grade II listed building up for sale have been further postponed to allow community groups to come up with a business plan for alternative uses for the building.
One group hopes to transform The Priory into an arts and heritage centre with revenue generated through room hire, events and a cafe.
Coun Morgan added: “The actual Priory building has been registered as an Asset of Community Value and we await viable proposals and plans before making a further decision about the building.”
More than 2,000 people have signed a petition campaigning against the sale.
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