Changes made to the town’s new museum have been given retrospective approval by the borough council – but not everyone is happy.
The museum is in the process of being moved from Goffs Park to the Tree, on the corner of the High Street and The Boulevard.
As part of the preparation work at the Tree, planning permission was given in 2014 for a two-storey glazed link to be built, connecting the medieval building with its 1980s annexe.
But, rather than erecting the approved lightweight and frameless structure, contractors installed a much heavier, framed link, which has been criticised as being of “poor quality”.
Crawley Borough Council’s listed buildings officer and urban design officer both objected to the way the link was built – as did several members of the planning committee.
A report put before the committee on June 13 said the framed link had resulted in a development that was of “significantly lower quality than was originally permitted”. Kim Jaggard (Con, Maidenbower) added: “I’m really concerned about the inferior design. So often we’re getting retrospective applications where people have completely disregarded what we have told them.”
Nigel Sheehan, head of partnership services at the council, told the meeting the contractors had opted for the framed link as it offered “greater structural support”. It will also enable the museum to use the link for exhibits – something that would not be possible with the frameless structure.
Martin Stone (Con, Ifield) argued the museum would be “the jewel in Crawley’s crown” when complete. He told the meeting the project was already nine months behind schedule and asked that it was not delayed any further.
His words held no water with Brenda Burgess (Con, Three Bridges), who said the delay was “not my problem”.
Asking why the contractors did not approach the council about the changes before implementing them, she added: “I’m so angry with this. It’s retrospective and has been thrown in our faces. They should know better.
“Why have we got a cheaper and more inferior product? Where has the money gone?”
The project has been funded by a £1.15m grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund and £763,000 from the council.
Peter Smith (Lab, Ifield) accused the contractors of “blatantly disregarding” the advise of planners but added: “It’s a fait accompli and there’s nothing we can do. If we refuse this application, it’s going to be very difficult to see how it will benefit the town.”
The application was permitted.
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