Not everyone is happy at the idea of having the builders in, but the Trustees of Seaford Museum are absolutely delighted to confirm that they have appointed Seaford based building company, H Wilson (Alfriston) Ltd as a main contractor for their new Seaford Museum Improved Access Project.
"The project has three main elements" explained Museum Chairman Kay Turvey "an iconic new pedestrian footbridge; a wheelchair friendly lift and extensive ramping which will allow better access to the main moat level exhibition area in the Museum".
The footbridge, which will lead from the public pavement to the original Martello Tower front door will be constructed and installed by Portslade based Millimetre Design UK. The design for the footbridge was produced by Morgan Carn Partnership Architects of Brighton, who are also the general architects for the whole project. "It's an exciting contemporary design which will be both eye-catching and up to the task of coping with the adverse weather conditions sometimes experienced on Seaford seafront".
Before these planned building works the only access to the Museum, which is based in Martello Tower 74 on Seaford seafront, has been by way of two sets of steep stairs which can be difficult for even fully mobile visitors and volunteers and so in addition to the footbridge, a new wheelchair friendly lift is to be installed to help people get down to the moat level.
"But even the footbridge and lift are not enough" added Kay Turvey, "we are providing user friendly ramps into the main exhibition area as well as a safe route out into the dry moat in the event of a fire or other emergency".
The overall cost of the project is around £300,000. About two thirds of the money was provided by a generous donation from the Keith Baker Memorial Will Trust. Then when the project seemed stalled, the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund, stepped in to provide a grant of up to a further £100,000. There have also been donations from other local groups and individuals.
With all the major building work taking place it might be easy to overlook the efforts of the Museum's trusty team of volunteers. "We have such a wide range of skills and talents in our volunteers that there is almost nothing they can't, or won't try to do and without them the Museum simply couldn't exist. That said, we can always use more new volunteers".
For almost 40 years the Museum has had to advise potential visitors that "owing to the nature of the listed building, there is no lift or wheelchair access" but that should be rectified by the Spring of 2018 when the new facilities will be opened to the public.
"H. Wilson(Alfriston) Ltd started the preparatory work at the beginning of October and the various phases of the overall project will be continuing through into the New Year. Unfortunately there is bound to be some disruption to the normal smooth running of the Museum during this period and some closures of the Museum will be inevitable to ensure the work can be done in a safe way.
"We will try to ensure there is as little disturbance as possible. We plan to maintain our normal programme of talks through the period, although we may have to use different halls so we would ask that museum members and others keep an eye on our advertisements and the Museum website (www.seafordmuseum.co.uk).
"This project was first mooted in 2010 and it's been a long and sometimes frustrating journey but we feel sure that all the trials and tribulations will be forgotten when we welcome our first visitors who are able to use of improved access arrangements".