A new state-of-the-art history centre could be built in Chester.
The proposed location for the £13m development is the site previously occupied by Chester Enterprise Centre which burnt down in December 2010.
Cheshire Archives and Local Studies, a shared service of Cheshire West and Chester Council (CWaC) and Cheshire East Council, needs a new home as the current one in Duke Street, Chester, has been declared “no longer fit for purpose”.
Under proposals due before both authorities’ cabinets next week, the archive would be rehoused in two new bespoke history centres – one in Chester and one in Crewe.
These would be climate-controlled environments to house the collections and make them more interactive and accessible to the public.
The archive ranges from the Middle Ages to the present day and includes 8km of archives from businesses, schools, hospitals and local clubs and organisations. In addition it has tens of thousands of photographs, maps and books covering all aspects of Cheshire’s history.
The £13m joint scheme, if approved, would see each authority contribute £4.2m each with the remainder of the money being sought via a bid for a Heritage Lottery Fund grant.
The proposed site for Chester’s new history centre is the former Business Enterprise site on Hoole Road. Crewe’s history centre would be located at the “Old Library” site in the town centre.
Councillor Louise Gittins, CWaC cabinet member for communities and wellbeing, said: “Currently the archives service helps over a million people each year, through visits to the record office, outreach events, support for community history projects, services in libraries and through its websites.
“Sites in Chester were identified through discussions with Chester Growth Partnership, the Chester One City Plan and the Chester Heritage and Visual Arts Strategy. Feedback has also been considered from existing users from a 2014 consultation. The new proposals will protect our irreplaceable heritage for future generations, whilst also making them more accessible.”
Under the proposals the new centres will incorporate facilities for exhibitions, events, research and more space for volunteers, while also allowing for the better preservation of the county’s rich written heritage. The proposal also sees the service developing plans to make the archives more accessible throughout the county through an expanded outreach programme and digital access. The proposals will be more fully developed over the next two to three years including consultation with residents, service users and new users.
The decisions will be taken at a meeting of Cheshire East Council’s cabinet on September 12 and Cheshire West and Chester Council cabinet on September 13.
Subject to funding, the proposal new facilities would open in 2022/23.