The following article was published in Stourbridge News 4th April 2013:
PLANS to turn a derelict glassworks site in Wordsley into a world class museum are a step closer to becoming reality after a £2m bid for funding was submitted.
The British Glass Foundation and developers Complex Development Projects have long been hoping to transform the old Stuart Crystal site, opposite the Red House Glass Cone in Camp Hill, into a new state-of-the-art glass museum.
And more than a year after releasing the first images of how the revamped White House Cone site could look - a bid has finally been submitted to the ERDF (European Regional Development Fund) for £2m towards the ambitious £5.5m project.
If successful, applications for cash will also be made to the Heritage Lottery Fund and Growing Places Fund.
The proposed facility would showcase Stourbridge's prized glass collection, currently housed at Kingswinford’s Broadfield House Glass Museum and in storage at Himley Hall, and would bring to life the area’s glassmaking past through an interactive tour, demonstrations and chance to see contemporary craftsmen and women at work.
Graham Knowles, BGF chairman, said: “The site will become a visitor attraction that tells the story of the Stourbridge glass industry bringing together the whole of the Glass Quarter and linking in with the other major visitor attractions in the area including Dudley Zoo and Castle, Black Country Living Museum and Dudley Canal Trust.
“This will enhance tourism in the area and boost the local economy.”
The project would also preserve vandal-hit listed historic buildings on the site and the remains of the White House Cone - a Scheduled Ancient Monument.
And the new attraction would link to the Red House Glass Cone on the opposite side of the A491 through underground tunnels.
Plans are also progressing ahead for the BGF to become a Museum Trust to eventually take over the running of the proposed council-owned glass museum.
Councillor Shaukat Ali, cabinet member for regeneration and deputy leader of Dudley Council, said the council remains committed to the project and has been assisting with trying to gain funding but it wants to “ensure there is a sustainable business plan behind it”.
He added: “We will continue to work closely with the British Glass Foundation to reach this point and move the project forward."
Meanwhile plans are also in the pipeline to build 48 new homes on the back part of the site and are expected to go before Dudley Council’s planning committee on April 22.
Moves are also afoot to recruit a new Keeper of Glass, following the retirement of long-serving Roger Dodsworth at Broadfield House, to take care of the borough’s glass collection.
Dudley Council’s cabinet approved findings and commissioned further work as part of an ongoing feasibility study in the borough’s glass quarter.
The independent study by a team of professional consultants has been ongoing since May and is looking at the possibility of creating a single iconic glass heritage facility to house the borough’s existing glass collection, which is currently located at the Glass Museum at Broadfield House or in storage.
At the meeting on Wednesday 9 December the cabinet noted the findings of the first stage of the study and asked the consultants to progress to Stage 2 which will develop more detailed proposals and costings for Option B of their report.
Option B asks the consultants to look at the practicalities of bringing the borough's glass heritage services together onto one site at the cone and developing the former Stuart Crystal shop and associated buildings, which have been purchased by Dudley Council, subject to contract. It will cover such topics as physical/spatial designs, interpretation plans, audience development and marketing strategy, estimated costings and funding strategy, implementation programme and priorities.
Cllr David Stanley, cabinet member for environment and culture said:
“Our vision is to create an excellent visitor experience that is appropriate to our renowned glass collections, which is one of the finest in the world.
“I look forward to seeing the consultant’s detailed proposals for stage two of the study which should help us to celebrate the borough’s glass heritage.”
More information and a brief of the feasibility study, as well as the full stage one report can be found at www.dudley.gov.uk/see-and-do/museums/glass-feasibility-study/