Penarth Town Councillor Philip Rapier has initiated a Freedom of Information request to find out just how it is that the National Museum of Wales appears to have acquired a valuable freehold plot of land in Penarth – just behind the Turner House Art Gallery in Plymouth Road.
After several weeks Cllr Rapier has now received a reply from the National Museum which appears to raise more questions than it does answers .
There has been criticism of the way in which the National Museum has carried out its stewardship of the Turner House Gallery – which was originally (along with a priceless collection of Turner paintings) – bequeathed to the “people of Penarth” by the flour magnate and local benefactor James Pyke Turner.
The National Museum took the original Turner pictures away and stored them in its own vaults. Now it says Turner House is not suitable for displaying them and there is nowhere else in Penarth which is suitable to put them on show – not even the Pier Pavilion – partly because of the high security which would be necessary.
The Turner House building itself – which is a Listed Building – was leased by the National Museum to the grant-dependent charity ‘Ffotogallery’ for displays of photographs – rather than the valuable paintings it was originally designed to exhibit. The full story is on http://tinyurl.com/qc2hjdl
Earlier this year Cllr Rapier sent the National Museum an email ask whether the National Museum of Wales had “purchased the freehold or extended their lease” on a plot of land at the rear of Turner House . There appear to be no records of any such transfer in the Land Registry .
The most recent records of any change in the ownership of the land, he says, dates back to a conveyance document dated 4 April 1970 when the “lease on the land transferred from the Earl of Plymouth Rt. Hon. Robert Windsor Clive” to the ownership of the Plymouth Estates company of Ludlow Shropshire. The original lease was dated December 12th 1897 and Cllr Rapier says this was set to expire after 79 years on the December 15 1976.
Cllr Rapier – using a Freedom of Information Request – wanted to know whether the National Museum of Wales is now the freeholder of this land or if the leaseholder the unexpired term of the lease.
Cllr Rapier also checked with the Land Registry – but says it appears to have “no record whatsoever of the tenure of Turner House at any time since its construction”.
The National Museum’s Director of Operations has now responded saying that the museum is now “the freeholder of part of the parcel of land” .
He also says “ The Museum assumes that in a subsequent transaction that parcel was split, as the Museum only owns a section of the land which is designated on site by indentations on a curved line across the car park behind Turner House.
The National Museum does not explain how it came to acquire the land and has yet to say what it intends to do with Turner House when the Ffotogallery’s tenancy comes to an end – which it is shortly due to do.