LEP backs Ironbridge Gorge Museums with £230,000 lifeline

The Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust is set to benefit from a pioneering land deal which sees profits from land sold for development in Telford re-invested into key projects across the Marches.

Marches LEP chair Mandy Thorn
Marches LEP chair Mandy Thorn

The Trust has warned that the compounding effects of both flooding and coronavirus has dealt a financial blow to the museum which has 10 sites in the Gorge and attracts hundreds of thousands of tourists every year.

Telford & Wrekin Council pays a portion of profits from land it sells under the deal with Homes England into the LEP’s Marches Investment Fund (MIF) to drive growth and regeneration.

The Telford Land Deal Board and Marches LEP Board have now agreed that £230,000 from MIF can be used to support Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust after it appealed for external financial support. The funding forms part of a wider £1.58m injection from MIF for strategic tourism and business initiatives in the region.

The Trust is currently working towards reopening Blists Hill Victorian Town, Coalbrookdale Museum of Iron and Toll House on July 4. The Museum of The Gorge, which suffered damage during the floods of February, will open as a free entry Visitor Centre. Tickets for the attractions went on sale on June 23.

As well as employing over 200 staff and 500 volunteers the Museum spends over £2m each year on retail and catering stock, on maintenance and event contracts and other external suppliers most of which is provided by local suppliers, many small business owners.  This grant will therefore also benefit many other businesses across Telford and the Marches.

Mandy Thorn MBE, LEP Chair, said: “The Ironbridge Gorge is the single largest draw for visitors in the Marches attracting over 1.5million visitors a year.

“Around 40 per cent of visitors say the museums are the main reason for their visit and £60 million of visitor spend is generated in Ironbridge Gorge by the museums. It is of vital importance that the Trust is supported at this time – it is of strategic importance to the health of our regional economy.”

Councillor Carolyn Healy, Telford & Wrekin Council’s cabinet lead for the Ironbridge Gorge, said: “It is great news that the unique Telford Land Deal which is a partnership with Homes England and the Marches Local Enterprise Partnership can support the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust in this way.

“It has been a tough year for everyone but particularly in Ironbridge with the combination of the worst floods for 20 years and the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.”

Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust chief executive Nick Ralls said the funding was a much-needed boost as the museums prepared for a phased reopening and continued to work to repair the damage caused by February’s floods.

“The lockdown and floods have been a really significant double blow to us and this funding could not be more welcome. As a registered heritage conservation and education charity caring for some internationally-important buildings in a World Heritage Site,  every penny we receive in donations, bequests, fundraising and ticket sales plays a part in preserving our history and inspiring new generations.

“We are incredibly grateful for this funding and will ensure that it is used to continue the Trust’s vital work and helps generate much-needed revenue for our tourism and visitor economy.”

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