Exmouth Museum has been saved thanks to council loan

Exmouth Museum has secured a loan from the district council to buy its building and secure its future.

The Victorian building, in Sheppards Row, is owned by South West Water and the site had been offered to the museum before the water giant put it up for sale on the open market.

South West Water want £150,000 and the museum currently has funding available of at least £45,000.

East Devon District Council’s cabinet on Wednesday night agreed to issue a loan to Exmouth Museum of up to £105,000 to enable the purchase of the building.

The council would borrow monies from the Public Works Loan Board and enter into a back-to-back agreement with the museum at the fixed interest rate obtained. This would be around 1.71 per cent and result in a required annual payment from the museum of £5,180, although this would reduce if the value of the loan required was less.

The deal is subject to a property valuation to ensure adequate security over the loan and assurance obtained from the museum of the ability to meet the annual loan payment.

Simon Davey, the strategic lead finance, Cllr Ben Ingham, leader of the council, and Cllr Ian Thomas, finance portfolio holder, have to unanimously agree to issue the loan to the museum.

Concerns were raised by members of the cabinet over the vagueness of the proposal, the lack of detail as to how much they would be lending, and how the museum could finance the repayments.

But Cllr Geoff Pook said that there were experienced and skilled people who could take a decision as to whether to go ahead or not.

Cllr Geoff Jung said: “The museum is very important for Exmouth. If they fail to pay the repayments, it would be secured by the property, so what is the risk? It is worth preserving and there is not much monetary risk. If we lose the museum, it would be a great shame.”

Exmouth Museum chairman of trustees, Cllr Steve Gazzard, said that they were grateful for the offer of the loan and that once they did own the building, it would enable them to make grant funding application for further improvements to the museum.

The cabinet voted by eight votes to one to approve the loan, subject to the security checks taking place.

Exmouth Museum was founded in 1985 and is split over two 19th century buildings. In the past the building was a cottage used by a foreman of the local council and stables, used to store the local authority fire engine.

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