Support rolls in for museum forced to close

Support has been pouring in for Norfolk's RAF Defence Radar Museum which was forced to close at short notice last month after failing a fire safety inspection.

And manager Doug Robb has pledged that the award-winning Neatishead attraction will re-open, possibly with the aid of a public fund-raising campaign towards the costs of safety-improvement requirements which could be between �40,000 and �50,000.

Mr Robb said he had been receiving daily letters and emails from some of the museum's international 700-strong friends group since the closure.

Many wanted to know when a fund-raising drive would be launched and one man had already sent a �100 cheque.

The level of support had been a tremendous boost to the morale of staff and volunteers at the museum, opened more than 15 years ago to help tell the story of the nation's air defence since the invention of radar in 1935.

Unfortunately, some would-be visitors, unaware of the crisis, had queued at the museum's gates on Saturday, expecting it to be opened as part of Heritage Open Days events.

A decision on public fund-raising could not be taken until a full and costed list of works had been considered by the site's owners, Defence Estates, part of the Ministry of Defence.

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Contractors had begun assessing the site and their report should be available by the end of the month, said Mr Robb who expected Defence Estates to make a 'fairly rapid' judgement on the contractors' findings.

He said: 'I think, in the current climate, it's probably unlikely Defence Estates would pay for all the work but they might pay for certain elements.'

The museum's board of trustees had met on Monday and agreed that the work would be funded somehow, because the museum must not fold.

'We need a target to aim at so we have to wait until we hear from Defence Estates,' Mr Robb added.

Work is expected to include improvements to fire exit doors, an extension of the automatic fire-detection system into two buildings beside the main museum, emergency lighting, and a new fire escape from the top floor.

It might prove possible to re-open the Cold War Operations Room, 'the jewel in the museum's crown,' in a limited way before the end of the year but it could be more expensive to 'cherry pick' the work needed, rather than get it done wholesale, said Mr Robb. He hoped the museum would be ready for a full-scale reopening in the spring.

Meanwhile staff and about 40 volunteers had begun their winter programme early, carrying out repairs and preparing new exhibits for display.

Mr Robb added: 'It's disappointing to have lost two months of our season but we will open again – there is no doubt about that.'