Final bell tolls for Explosion! Museum

The Highfield Campus at the University of Southampton, which is home to the George Thomas Building. Picture: Geograph

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The final death knell has been sounded for a controversial museum which has lost its eight-year battle for survival.

Gosport council has announced plans to close the Explosion! Museum in Priddy's Hard, Gosport, on April 1.

The news comes after developer Verve pulled out of plans to take over the museum in ambitious 40m bid to regenerate the surrounding area.

It is costing the council 10,000 a month to keep the museum open.

But the authority's budget, which was approved on Wednesday, saw the funding slashed from 145,920 over the past 12 months, to 45,860 for the coming financial year.

This cash is only enough to cover the insurance and pay non-domestic rates at the museum – not enough to keep it open to the public.

Unless a developer steps in over the next two months with a rescue plan for the museum, the reduced funding is set to be the final nail in the coffin.

With very little time left to secure a future for the museum, the Lib Dem leader of the council, Cllr Dave Smith, admitted the chances of its survival were slim.

'It does look like the writing is on the wall, but I won't give up, I'll be working until midnight on the last day of March to try and find a solution,' he said.

'We are trying to dig ourselves out of a big hole we have been left in by the Conservatives, whose legacy it was, but we can't go to the electorate and say we will continue to fund a museum that no one wants.'

Explosion! opened its doors for free to residents of the borough from January in a desperate bid to attract people.

But while visitor numbers have doubled in the last month to 615, compared to 303 in January last year, not even the Tories – who have been pushing to save the museum – set money aside for it in their proposed budget.

EXPLOSION! TIMELINE

> March, 2001: Explosion! opens.

> April 2002: Funding causes a rift between council and trustees.

> October: Trustees demand a further 65,000 on top of annual 300,000.

> November: Council decides to take over running the museum.

> August 2003: Sacked museum employee Michael Nutt wins an employment tribunal for unfair dismissal.

> March 2005: Museum director and curator Chris Henry leaves.

> March 2006: Figures reveal the council has spent more than 1.5m on the museum, with losses of around 1m.

> January 2007: Staff at Explosion! are told they are likely to lose their jobs.

> February: Plans are announced to mothball the museum.

> April: Plan to only open at weekends.>> March, 2001: Explosion! opens.

>> April 2002: Funding causes a rift between council and trustees.

>> October: Trustees demand a further 65,000 on top of annual 300,000.

>> November: Council decides to take over running the museum.

>> August 2003: Sacked museum employee Michael Nutt wins an employment tribunal for unfair dismissal.

>> March 2005: Museum director and curator Chris Henry leaves.

>> March 2006: Figures reveal the council has spent more than 1.5m on the museum, with losses of around 1m.

>> January 2007: Staff at Explosion! are told they are likely to lose their jobs.

>> February: Plans are announced to mothball the museum.

>> April: Plan to only open at weekends.

>> December 2008: Verve pulls out of redevelopment plan because of economy.