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Legal battle threatened over Amesbury history centre
A ROW that’s broken out over a community history centre could result in a costly legal battle.
Amesbury Town Council and Amesbury Museum and Heritage Trust are at loggerheads over the lease and funding arrangements for the Amesbury History Centre, based at the Melor Hall.
The dispute erupted earlier this year and the town council, which bought the building for £285,000, took over the day-to-day running of the centre with the help of volunteers from the Amesbury Society.
Now councillors want the trust to transfer funds and grants it has been given to the town council to help pay for the museum’s upkeep.
They say the trust received grants for an alarm system and other building improvements that have not been spent and the town council is now funding the work instead.
A Preseli blue stone, bought by the people of Amesbury and collected from Wales by the army, has not been publically displayed, despite being intended for the museum.
“You have to question what the trust is for,” said Cllr Andrew Williams at last Tuesday’s Amesbury Town Council meeting.
“Enough is enough. Why don’t they just transfer the funds to the town council for the good of everyone involved?”
Cllr John Noeken added: “This is a mess and the time might come when we have to apologise to everyone in Amesbury for it.
“It is time for this whole sorry saga to come to an end.”
After receiving a letter from the trust’s solicitors, Amesbury Town Council has sought advice from the National Association of Local Councils.
The council says objects belonging to the trust have been removed from the exhibition ready for collection by the trustees and all links with the trust’s name have been severed.
But chairman of the trustees Andy Rhind-Tutt, who is also a town councillor, has accused councillors of “back stabbing” and “missing opportunities”.
“The charitable trust was founded to ensure that Amesbury’s Heritage is protected, preserved, maintained and promoted for the benefit of the public,” he said.
“It was never intended to be used solely for an exhibition, to fundraise for the upkeep of town council property or top up their general funds.
“The monies and assets raised by the goodwill of the public are safely held within the trust, specifically ring fenced for the charity’s use.
“As a councillor, f o r m e r mayor and founder of Amesbury 2012 and the t o w n ’ s re generation partnership, I am heartbroken that after four years of hard work pushing out good news and promoting the town to get it on its feet, my fellow councillors are stabbing each other in the back and effectively reversing progression on such an important project for Amesbury “I do sincerely hope that with legal advice the council will reconsider its untenable position and we can revisit discussions amicably to move forward positively with one vision for a great new museum for Amesbury.”