Museum space for Flowerfield?

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AFTER some thirty odd years, Coleraine could finally have a permanent museum space - at Flowerfield Arts Centre in Portstewart.

Corporate Director of Leisure Services, Richard Baker asked councillors at last Tuesday’s Policy and Development committee meeting in Cloonavin to agree on the appointment of consultants to carry out an appraisal of Flowerfield to further develop the facility.

The appraisal will cost in the region of £10,000.

Back in December, plans to develop the former Market Yard site into a museum, which included a library, coffee shop and exhibition space, were shelved after Peace III funding fell through.

The planned Flowerfield facility would be interactive, catering for local families, schools and communities, and could be up and running in the next three years.

UUP councillor David Harding said he was “broadly” in support of the recommendation by Mr Baker, but proposed an amendment that the consultants should include an appraisal of cultural heritage across the borough, including exhibition space in Coleraine town centre.

He said: “After the collapse of the Market Yard project, Coleraine town is left with nothing.

“We must focus on the massive heritage of the area.

“We have no exhibition space, no arts provision - I would like to see where we’re going in five years time.

“One of the best ways to improve business is to improve the arts and culture, you only have to look at our neighbours in Londonderry. Good cultural provision brings in revenue.”

Alliance councillor Yvonne Boyle seconded councillor Harding’s amendment.

DUP Alderman Maurice Bradley also supported the amendment: “We need exhibition space in Coleraine Town Hall, but we must remember the other users, we just can’t throw them out.”

The Mayor, councillor Sam Cole agreed in principle with the proposed development at Flowerfield: “We can utilise its full potential,” he said.

Independent councillor Christine Alexander questioned the £10,000 spend on the appraisal: “Will it tell us something that we don’t already know?

“Why are we spending more money?

“What are the plans for the Market Yard? Are we going to let it fall into a state of disrepair.”

Mr Baker replied that in the coming months members will be told about the options for the Market Yard site.

DUP councillor William Duddy agreed with councillor Alexander: “£10,000 is a lot of money, we’re only talking about a museum in Flowerfield with what’s already there.”

Mr Baker told the meeting that it was essential that consultants carried out an appraisal. “We want something that is sustainable until we can do it in the town centre.”

On being put to a vote, councillor Harding’s amendment for the consultants report to include an appraisal of cultural heritage across the Borough of Coleraine including exhibition space in Coleraine was carried.