THE push to secure a future for Ilkley’s historic Manor House Museum and Art Gallery has taken a step forward with confirmation of Bradford Council backing for a major study.
The local authority, which owns and currently runs the museum, has agreed to support an Ilkley group with the funding of a feasibility study, which will assess the community’s needs and determine if big plans for the museum are financially viable.
Those fighting for the future of the Manor House, in Castle Yard, welcomed the announcement.
But the timescale for setting up a community management scheme is limited. The Council announced earlier this year its funding would be withdrawn from next spring.
The New Manor House Group, made up of about a dozen local residents with a range of artistic and cultural interests, asked the Council to support a feasibility study.
Chairman of the group, Ruth Pitt, said it has met the local authority and Ilkley Parish Council and was delighted to be told the vital piece of work can now go ahead.
"Everybody now agrees that before any decisions can be made about the future of the Manor House we need to find out exactly what the town might want from this fantastic building and whether or not any emerging plans are financially viable," she said.
A steering group will oversee the feasibility study and Bradford Council plans to put out a tender for the work shortly.
She added: “This is fantastic news and just what we have been waiting for. The New Manor House Group is looking forward to working with a specialist organisation that can come back to us with some firm facts and figures as well as a real vision for how the building can serve the town in the future.”
One of the options could be the creation of a ‘cultural quarter’ for the town.
Bradford Council said there was currently no timescale for the study, but that was expected to be developed over the next week. It has not yet revealed the budget for the study, which will be carried out by a contractor.
Members of Ilkley Parish Council have been pressing for progress on plans for the Manor House’s future. The museum was threatened earlier this year before the Parish Council brokered a deal to part-fund its operation for another year.
Councillor Brian Mann said: “I’m particularly pleased the feasibility study is going ahead, and we can see what the potential is for the Manor House, and particularly the cottages.”
Bradford Council member for culture, skills and employment Councillor Susan Hinchcliffe said: "The Council has been working hard with local groups and the Parish Council to support and encourage responses from the community with regard the future of the Manor House.
"I am pleased that we can now support the next stage of development, which will be crucial in informing the future of the site."