WITH plans for a Newport Ship museum on the rocks, supporters are considering taking matters into their own hands amid consternation over plans to end its funding.
Friends of the Newport Ship chairman Peter Hayward says he’s been told Newport council doesn’t want to complete the project to restore and display the medieval boat found in the River Usk in 2002. And he says the only way forward is to set up a charitable organisation to take it on.
The Argus can reveal that archaeological experts, and even one museum in Germany, have reacted with dismay to plans by the council to cut funding to nothing by 2016.
Friends of the Newport Ship have told council officers the proposals are inconsistent, with the council making no provision for storage costs of the timbers, which are currently being preserved at the Ship Centre in Maesglas.
It also argues that with the potential value of the boat as a tourist attraction and as an asset for the city, abandoning the project would be a complete waste of the investment made in it.
The group has told the authority it is committed to setting up a charitable body that could take over the ship, but warned that can’t be done overnight.
Mr Hayward told the Argus: “What the council have said is there’s no way they are going to take the project through to completion.
“The only way forward that we can see at the moment is for us to set up a new charitable organisation that could take that forward.”
He said the group is working on trying to establish whether that would be financially viable.
On Tuesday, council leader Bob Bright told the Newport City Summit that while the Newport Ship should be exhibited, it isn’t “within the gift of the city council” and that a partnership approach was needed.
Mr Hayward said that Cllr Bright’s comments were “more positive than I dared hope” and suggested he couldn’t say it was a national treasure and then end the project by refusing it more funding.
Council documents show that most people who contacted the council over recent budget consultation did so to object to plans to cut the Newport Ship’s funding. Objectors include the German National Maritime Museum, the Institute for Archaeologists, the National Archeology Society and the editor of the International Journal of Nautical Archaeology.
Two reports on the Newport Ship have been recently published in the journal. Under Newport council budget proposals it will have its funding cut totally by 2016 – losing £105,000 in 2014/15 and £145,000 in 2015/16.
Newport council is due to formally set the budget later this month, with cabinet set to discuss it on February 10.
‘Council is committed to storing the timbers’
NEWPORT council is committed to storing the timbers of the Newport Ship and is finalising options for where to put it, according to a senior councillor. Councillor Debbie Wilcox, cabinet member for leisure and culture, said she discussed the situation with the Friends and the public last year.
In comments made before Cllr Bright spoke on Tuesday, she said: “I was very clear about the dire financial situation we are in and explained I had met with the appropriate Welsh Government minister who was unable to offer any further funding for the project.
“Newport City Council has invested significantly in the project since 2002 and is committed to securing suitable storage for the timbers. While there is no budget to progress the project beyond the conservation stage, we are committed to securing suitable storage for the timbers.”
Cllr Wilcox said the authority is committed to completing the conservation of the timbers, having entered into a contract with York Archaeology Trust for them to be freeze dried. “The project is moving out of its current base in Maesglas later this year when the lease ends and the council is finalising options for suitable storage in the future.”
Newport council documents say the authority is committed to the completion of the conservation of timbers, but there is “no funding to progress beyond this conservation stage”.
The council budget documents say staff working on the project are at risk of redundancy, but admits there will be on-going costs for storage and of managing contract with York Archaeological Trust.