Plans for winter charges at Ancient House Museum slammed

Thetford's Ancient House Museum. Picture: Denise Bradley

Thetford's Ancient House Museum. Picture: Denise Bradley - Credit: copyright: Archant 2014

Plans to charge for entry to one of Thetford's flagship museums have been called 'extremely short-sighted' amid fears it will stop the less wealthy accessing the town's heritage.

Norfolk County Council is looking to charge visitors to the Ancient House Museum during the winter months in a move it says will make £3,000.

Visitors can currently enter the museum for free from October to March.

If the change is approved, adult visitors will pay £3.95 to enter the museum, and children £2.30 from this coming October.

Corinne Fulford, from Thetford's Great Information Centre, said the move would cut off the museum to thousands of people.

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'It's about making it accessible to everybody. If it's always free, it gives people a chance to explore things they might never do otherwise.

'I understand that in austere times we have to look to make savings, but this is a backwards step for what seems like a very small amount of money,' she said.

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The proposals came as the county council tries to counteract a £70m budget shortfall following Government cuts.

The authority is looking to save £36m and raise income by £34m.

The plans were presented to a meeting of the council's Policy and Resources committee on Monday. No Thetford representative was in attendance.

Denis Crawford, county councillor for Thetford East, said he would also object to the plans.

'I think it will reduce the amount of people who go to the museum.

'You are limiting an organisation which is basically about education and it helps people understand what Thetford is about,' he said.

Terry Jermy, county councillor for Thetford West, said he had previously sent representations to the council and that he was against the move.

'It just seems such a small amount of money and you have to ask yourself if it's worth it?

'Any increase in charges will naturally decrease the demand,' he said.

Paul Smyth, chairman of the council's Communities Committee, said 'unprecedented' cuts meant the museum charges were being looked at.

'Re-introducing Winter charges would bring it in line with the majority of Norfolk Museum Service sites but there would continue to be free access for looked after children, young carers and schools,' he said.

The change will be decided upon by the council on February 16.

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