Extra £75k handed to over-budget landmark Kettering cultural scheme amid row over its name

Museum stakeholders are angry that they were not consulted over the new name for the scheme

By Kate Cronin
Friday, 18th March 2022, 6:31 am
A CGI image of the project. Copyright: GSS Architecture
A CGI image of the project. Copyright: GSS Architecture

Upset locals say they have been frozen out of a council decision to rename Kettering's GLaM scheme.

The council announced last week that the major cultural building project that will transform and unify Kettering Manor House Museum, the Alfred East Art Gallery, the library and the Manor House Gardens will be renamed Cornerstone.

This came as a surprise to Kettering Civic Society and the Friends of Alfred East Art Gallery, who say they have not been consulted over the new name.

There has been some upset over the name Cornerstone

One speaker at yesterday's (Thursday, March 16) North Northamptonshire Council Executive meeting said he had concerns Cornerstone was the name of a 'right wing' group of Conservative MPs.

Councillors were also asked yesterday to release a further £75,000 from the authority's capital funds because the scheme is running over-budget.

And it was revealed that the upper floors of the museum, which are structurally unsound, will not be able to be refurbished under the current budget and instead will be subject to a further phase of works needing more capital funding.

Members of the North Northants Council Executive met yesterday where a report on the scheme was presented to them by Cllr Helen Howell, Executive Member for Sport, Leisure, Culture and Tourism.

The four separate identities will be retained under the umbrella brand Cornerstone

She said that the £4m scheme was experiencing some 'budget pressures' and that it was anticipated it would open in September 2022.

She said: "The ambition is that there will be a second phase, subject to securing the funding, which will be a extension and refurbishment of the museum."

Cllr Howell personally signed-off the name Cornerstone before Christmas and she told councillors at yesterday's meeting that the name was presented alongside a number of branding options at a series of workshops with staff.

Secretary of Kettering Civic Society Monica Özdemir spoke at the meeting. She expressed her disappointment that the society had not been involved in the workshops held by the external branding company Productive Designs.

She said: "The society does not think that Cornerstone is an appropriate overall brand and for several reasons ask for a review of this decision and to be included in further discussions."

David Brown, representing the views of the Friends of Alfred East Art Gallery and the Manor House Museum, said: "The name of Alfred East is recognised nationwide and internationally. It has history, it has heritage, it has gravitas.

"Cornerstone is a name currently widespread in popular use for any organisation wishing to convey a sense of solidity and dependability. It's currently the name of a major brand of shaving products, and has recently been adopted here in Kettering and elsewhere as a unifying name for the Methodist church.

"There are Cornerstone art galleries in Didcot, Darlington, Kingston and Soham. More of concern is the name attached to a minority group of very traditional and right wing Conservative MPs that boast Jacob Rees-Mogg, Nadine Dorres, Peter Bone and Philip Hollbone amongst its members.

"I'd be curious to know the cost of the work done by Productive Design and what research they undertook before reaching their decision."

He also raised concerns about the funding for the Manor House Museum, which cannot be completed within the present budget.

He said: "The cursory reference to the museum is very worrying. The money originally allocated has been used to prop up the budget for the gallery and there would seem to be no firm strategic plans in place to address the future funding of the museum project."

Councillor Anne Lee, speaking as a member of the public, asked members for a guarantee that Kettering's museum would eventually be able to reopen.

The report to members states: "To date the Council has accounted for a 5-week delay in the most recent cost report and is in the process of undertaking a full commercial review with the contractor and design team.

"As a result, the cost report from end of January 2022 estimates that.. the project is currently projected to be £8k over budget, inclusive of contingency.

"However there are still coordination issues emerging from the design information and this projection could increase over the next reporting period.

"The risk of unknowns, the current construction market and the condition of the historic buildings still presents a risk to the project.

"Cashflow projections show that the project will not be overspent until May 2022

"Based on a projected overspend of between £8k and £50k a recommendation has been brought before executive to approve an uplift to the contingency of £75k to ensure the project can be successfully completed within the next few months, without incurring further delays, which would only further increase contract costs."

Members voted unanimously to release the extra £75,000.