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Newmarket councillors agree on Coach House for proposed local history museum

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Councillors are to press ahead with a plan to provide Newmarket with premises to set up a local history museum.

Members of Newmarket Town Council agreed at their annual meeting on Monday to take on the lease of the Coach House, in Palace Street, next door to the National Horseracing Museum.

The proposed six-year lease will cost £15,000 in the first year rising to £20,000 per annum over the next five years.

Former Mayor Michael Jefferys has given his backing to the plan
Former Mayor Michael Jefferys has given his backing to the plan

Deputy mayor, Cllr Michael Jefferys urged councillors to take on the new premises.

“My personal view is that we should grasp this opportunity,” he said.

“If we don’t, we might come to regret not taking the opportunity and I think now is the time to do it. We want this council to grow and this could be our chance.”

Supporting the deputy mayor’s proposal, Cllr Rachel Hood said: “It is a no-brainer.”

The Coach House, which was once used by the town council as a temporary base while the memorial hall was being refurbished, is owned by West Suffolk Council, which recently spent £100,000 refurbishing and modernising the premises, which most recently served as an office for building contractors working on the National Horse Racing Museum project.

The town council developed a draft business plan and proposal which was put to the district council last year along with an offer of £7,500 in rent which was rejected.

Some councillors, however, expressed reservations about the plan.

Cllr Kevin Yarrow said: “I do have concerns about the financial requirements and we need a firm business plan.”

Cllr Douglas Hall said: “I know everyone is excited about a town museum but we need to establish a firm business case and the Newmarket Local History Society needs to say it has the ability to run it. I am not yet convinced.”

In a report to the council, which was discussed in the public part of Monday’s meeting, members heard the Coach House would not only be a possible venue for a town museum but could also provide space for use for local art exhibitions and other community events and part of it could be sub-let for office use to help offset the cost of the lease.

The financial details of the proposal were discussed by councillors in confidential session at the end of the meeting.