Banbury Museum’s plans to more than double in size with a large extension were unanimously approved by councillors this afternoon (Thursday, February 15).
The museum submitted a proposal to build a three-storey extension to provide more room for exhibitions, a lecture hall and a new cafe.
Cherwell District Council’s planning committee unanimously voted in favour of the outline plans, with further details about how the extension will look to be decided with a later application.
Banbury Museum Trust chairman Bob Langton said: “We are delighted to have the support from Cherwell district councillors for our project, in order to make Banbury Museum a regional museum for north Oxfordshire, south Northants, Cotswolds, south Warwickshire and north Bucks.”
The overall floor space would go from 1,322sqm to 2,815sqm with an extension of a modern style built towards Spiceball Park Road.
The extension would also permit the construction of an office, storage space, and a WC. The existing café, facing onto the canal, would be extended, and excavation to its north-east would allow a basement store.
Lead member for housing and regeneration Cllr John Donaldson said: “This is another important step forward for Banbury’s regeneration.
“The extension and improvement of Banbury Museum would be a big boost to the town’s cultural offering and supports Cherwell council’s wider ambitions for the area surrounding the Oxford Canal.
“We have long supported Banbury Museum, and understand that the proposed changes will allow larger and more important exhibitions to come to Banbury.
“As well as supporting the improvements we are expecting elsewhere along the canal, I expect the new exhibition space will further boost tourism and the economy.”
A museum spokesman said the extension is expected to take up to five years to complete and will require a considerable amount of fundraising, but is attracting the support of major national cultural bodies.
Cllr Surinder Dhesi said during the planning committee meeting: “I support this proposal, I think it’s been a long time coming.
“I used to work at a primary school and we regularly went on trips to the museum – I think it’s well used and I move the application for approval.”
Planning officer Bob Duxbury said Oxfordshire County Council’s opposition to the plans over parking fears and servicing were not worthy of rejecting the application.
Mr Duxbury said the museum has never had its own parking provision so people do expect to park there, and most will be in the town centre anyway.
Plus Banbury was deemed to have sufficient parking space when Castle Quay 2 was being discussed three years ago, he said.
The extension would build over the existing service road for lorries to deliver exhibitions, so it is planned to have a ‘lay-by’ off Spiceball Park Road where such vehicles can stop.
The county council argued this was unacceptable as the planned Lidl supermarket car park access would be opposite the museum which could cause conflict.
But Mr Duxbury said lorries would be delivering to the museum very few times a year so the potential conflict would be reduced and not enough to reject the plans.
Cllr Alastair Milne-Home said Cherwell should take responsibility for making an agreement between the museum and the supermarket to minimise any issues.
Many councillors had to leave the committee room during the discussion for being on the executive, but it was not explained exactly why.