Issue - meetings

Victorian Schoolroom education provision and potential sale of 39½ Castle Street

Meeting: 23/02/2023 - Executive (Item 93)

93 Heritage Services: Victorian Schoolroom education provision and potential sale of 39½ Castle Street pdf icon PDF 128 KB

Additional documents:



1.     To cease the Victorian schoolroom/ playroom education offer in its current form.

2.     To release the asset (39½ Castle Street) for inclusion in an auction of nearby properties.

3.     To ringfence the capital receipt from the sale of 39½ Castle Street for future use in finding an alternative location for key Heritage Service activities.


To release resources which can be dedicated to other key areas of the Heritage Service and to generate a capital receipt which will contribute to developing a sustainable offer for the service in the future, including a new location for museum/ gallery activities.

Other options considered and rejected by the Executive:

1.    Continue with the current provision, requiring ongoing financial support and without generating funds to help sustain the future Heritage offer.

2.    Find a new location for the VSR provision which will likely require increased ongoing financial support as well as additional (unplanned) expenditure to set up the new offer.

Details of any conflict of interest declared by the Leader or lead councillors and any dispensation granted:

Councillor John Redpath declared a non-pecuniary interest as he was a Friend of Guildford Museum.



The Victorian Schoolroom and Playroom (VSP) provided a key element of the Heritage Service’s education provision including outside of the classroom learning experiences for Key Stage 1 and 2 children. Whilst the VSP generated an income it did not cover its operating costs.

Following the pandemic, provision was reduced. Currently, sessions were available twice a week during term time, but with limited resilience within the casual team to cover staff absence. Dedicated resource had been removed following the Future Guildford restructure. Current provision was not cost effective and limited the wider engagement work that could be delivered by this team. Three members of casual staff would be subject to redundancy if the provision ceased.

An operational asset review had been undertaken which included the property used for the VSP provision (39½ Castle Street). The property had been identified, along with others in the vicinity, as not achieving the Council’s investment criteria. The proposal was to include 39½ Castle Street in an auction lot, comprising nearby properties.

The Lead Councillor for Customer and Commercial Services introduced the report and welcomed the public speaker for the item who was Nick Bale, Chairman of the ‘Friends of Guildford Museum’ group. The decision to close the VSP would not be taken without full consideration and evaluation of the options open to the Council. However, over the past years the Council had seen £4million reduction in Government support, endured a pandemic and was now in the midst of the ‘cost of living crisis’. In 2019, the budgetary cost of Heritage Services was £1million, next year the Council faced a budget deficit of £5million. Consequently, it was more important than ever for all service areas to consider how they could operate more efficiently. Savings made from the closure of the VSP would provide an opportunity for the team to refocus and provide an improved heritage offer to residents through the Council’s remaining assets. Funding received from the sale of the building would be ringfenced to support the Heritage Team for the future.

The Chairman also welcomed Nick Bale who addressed the meeting. The ‘Friends of Guildford Museum’ supported the museum in a variety of ways. In 2022, the group had donated £17,000 to support the installation of a new IT system and had also paid for the VSP contents 20 years previously. The VSP was the main connection point for the museum with schools which was vital for the museum’s accreditation. The accreditation status did bring with it some viability for the museum, but the meeting heard that most important was the high quality of the experience received by the children through the offer which could not always be thought of in monetary terms. Mr Bale offered to support the Council in seeking to find an alternative venue at which the VSP experience might continue. On behalf of the Executive, the Chairman thanked Mr Bale for addressing the meeting.

There was reflection that this was the latest of a number of difficult decisions that had to  ...  view the full minutes text for item 93