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Monday, 28 July 2014

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Whitehaven’s Beacon must be run as business to survive

Whitehaven's under-threat Beacon museum must be run as a business and not a visitor attraction if it is to survive, a meeting has heard.

ptwoodburn
Facts: Elaine Woodburn

Users of The Beacon – which is proposed for closure under Copeland council’s budget cuts –- were last night invited to give their views at a public meeting.

Copeland must save £2.6 million by 2015, and also plans to end funding to Whitehaven Civic Hall and Cleator Moor Bowls and Sports Centre, both of which will close next year if partner organisations are not found to run them without any council subsidy.

Celia MacKenzie, chief executive of Whitehaven Harbour Commissioners, said: “Visitor attractions, as a whole, don’t make money. We need to help The Beacon find alternative revenue. It needs to be run as a business and stand on its own two feet. It cannot rely on hand-outs from the council.”

In light of cuts imposed by central government, Copeland says that it can no longer afford to pay the £450,000-a-year it costs to run the museum.

The council plans to save £104,000 by April 2014 by reducing The Beacon’s opening hours and ceasing to fund educational and cultural events. If no partner organisation if found to run the facility with Copeland by this date, it will close. It is also proposed to close Whitehaven’s Tourist Information Centre in April next year.

Shelley Williamson, a Whitehaven businesswoman, said that The Beacon can be saved if more people use it and it is made more profitable. “We can turn this around,” she said.

“I say to people ‘go to The Beacon and tell your friends to go to The Beacon’. That’s how things will change.”

The meeting heard from a number of residents.

Maggie Bedford said: “I moved to Whitehaven on my retirement and I feel angry and distressed that the town I love is being cut away. The Beacon is a treasure.”

Elaine Woodburn, leader of Copeland council, revealed to the meeting that the council is in discussion with a number of organisations with a view to keeping The Beacon open, albeit with possible changes to the way it operates.

“It is a fantastic asset for Whitehaven and Copeland and we are doing our damnedest to keep it,” she said.

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