Museum opens at last but not without controversy

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MONTROSE Museum has re-opened after almost a year amid some controversy over the design of the new access ramp at the building’s front entrance.

The museum opened on Friday after months of delay in the construction work, which was carried out to improve disabled access to the building and facilities inside.

Internal improvements included a lift and the installation of a disabled toilet.

But the new developments have not found favour with everyone, with one Review reader claiming the ramps make the building look like “Fort Knox”.

An Angus Council spokeswoman said this week that visitors will notice “an immediate difference” at the front of the building due to the symmetrical double ramp which will allow wheelchair users independent access for the first time.

She said: “The ramp complements the outside of the building both in its design and the stone which was chosen to match the Grade B listed building of 1842.”

But the member of the public, who asked not to be named, slammed the ramps’ design saying they are out of keeping with the building.

He said: “The new ramps overpower the front of the museum and look like Fort Knox.

“Surely a simple ramp would have sufficed at a fraction of the cost and not spoilt the frontage of the museum?”

The council has said that there may be plans in the future to include landscaping such as plants and flowers to soften the appearance of the new ramps.

The spokeswoman said: “There are no plans to put soft landscaping in place in the current contract, but we will be reviewing the situation now that the stone work at the museum has been completed.”

The William Lamb statue, Le Paresseux, which stood at the front of the building was removed for the duration of the scheme and will not be returned, and has been moved permanently to the William Lamb studio in Market Street.

While the new lift will provide access to the Maritime Gallery on the first floor, there is still no wheelchair access to the natural history section on the third floor.

The spokeswoman continued: “Providing access to the top section of the museum was investigated, and the installation of a stairlift was considered. This would have involved structural alterations to the stairs and handrail in order to support the equipment.

“There were also a number of other potential issues relating to the installation of a stairlift, including the considerable cost.

“It was therefore not considered practical to provide full wheelchair access to this area of the building.”

Property services spokesman councillor Mark Salmond apologised for the lengthy delay in completing the project and said the changes will be of “great benefit”.

He said: “We are sure that visitors to the museum, particularly those with mobility issues, will find the improved accessibility measures of great benefit.

“The reopening of the building was delayed because of difficulties in obtaining sufficient quantities of suitable locally sourced stone for the new entrance area and ramp.

“We apologise for the inconvenience this delay in re-opening has caused.”

The museum’s new season will begin today (Wednesday) at 2pm with a talk by popular speaker and writer John Aitken, who will deliver a talk on Montrose shipping.