A popular museum charting the story of RAF Cranwell, the home of the first military air academy in the world, looks set to relocate to bigger, better premises, in a £200,000-plus project.
North Kesteven District Council’s executive board have been discussing plans to expand and enhance the 25-year-old visitor attraction, based in buildings at Heath Farm, North Rauceby, opposite the airfield.
Currently exploring the potential and securing permissions and funding, councillors and officers have agreed in principle to relocate the existing Cranwell Aviation Heritage Museum into adjoining premises, known as the Carlight Building (formerly occupied by Carlight Caravans), as a way of “significantly enhancing the existing visitor experience and facilitating the operation of the museum on a commercial basis”.
Chief Executive Ian Fytche has been delegated to secure a budget of £200,000 from council reserves, subject to detailed costings, to fund the relocation of the museum.
This would secure the fulfilment of a long-held desire to move into larger premises to enable the full story of RAF Cranwell and those who have passed through it to be properly and comprehensively told.
Alongside its museum accreditation, a series of small improvements have been made to the existing premises over recent months which have attracted increased visitor numbers and school groups, but it is impossible to fit in larger groups.
Additional sources of Heritage Lottery Fund funding will also be sought and applied for to boost the project.
Council leader, Coun Richard Wright, said: “The proposal would allow for larger exhibitions space, more interesting and diverse displays and better interpretations of the unique collection and stories. It would also allow for a better café, retail area, learning centre and hub for onward promotion of the district’s unique visitor attractions. Together it is anticipated that this would more than double visitor numbers to around 20,000 a year.
“We feel that this represents a positive investment in the district’s visitor economy. Across North Kesteven, tourism is thriving as almost 2.5million annual visitors contribute £127m to the local economy, and this initiative lends itself to further promoting that and growing the area’s appeal and potential to attract further visitors and aviation aficionados.”
Officers will negotiate terms to lease the new premises with completion of any move most likely to be some time in 2019.
Cranwell Aviation Heritage Museum first opened its doors on Monday June 8, 1992. Over the years the centre has grown to include new interactive exhibits, a flight simulator and recently introduced a changing programme of exhibitions.