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New vision is driven forward for Cheshire’s archives

Plans have been submitted for two new state-of-the-art history centres that would preserve Cheshire’s archives for future generations and open up the collections to a whole new audience.

Cheshire Archives and Local Studies – a shared service of Cheshire East and Cheshire West and Chester Councils – looks after the county’s unique and irreplaceable written and pictorial history and is driving forward plans to rehouse the collections in two new bespoke facilities. 

The project, called ‘Cheshire’s archives: a story shared’, proposes a completely new history centre in Crewe – on the site of the town’s former library, next to Memorial Square – and a new history centre in Hoole, Chester, to replace the archive service’s current facility, which is no longer fit for purpose.

Planning applications for both centres have now been submitted, alongside plans to transform the civic and cultural space between the Lifestyle Centre and Memorial Square, in Crewe, which would deliver the first phase of a new high-quality public space in the town centre.

Councillor Jill Rhodes, lead for archives at Cheshire East Council, said: “Cheshire’s archives record the history of the county over the last 900 years, and it is brilliant news that we are moving forward with our joint plans to rehouse the collections in facilities that would meet the current standards to ensure their long-term preservation.

“We also want to transform the way the archives service works and give local people greater access to the collections and opportunities to interact with them more easily – helping them to celebrate their personal and communities’ histories. 

“In Crewe itself, the history centre would help the town to celebrate its heritage and support the aims of the Crewe Cultural Strategy, as well as continue the work that is being done to provide more reasons for people to come into the town more often. 

“I would encourage anyone with an interest in the county’s archives or Crewe’s ongoing regeneration to take a look at the plans and to submit their comments on these applications.”

The plans for the history centres, which would have a climate-controlled environment, include large event and gallery spaces to host performances, workshops and exhibitions, more spaces for people to carry out research, and better spaces for staff and volunteers to work with the collections to make them more accessible.

Work to date has been funded by Cheshire East Council, Cheshire West and Chester Council and the National Lottery Heritage Fund. A further grant application to help deliver the project was submitted to the National Lottery Heritage Fund in August and a decision about this is expected by the end of the year.

The civic and cultural space regeneration proposal for Crewe is part of a package of projects being progressed following Cheshire East Council’s successful £14.1m bid to the government’s Future High Streets Fund and is also supported through Crewe’s allocation of up to £22.9m from the government’s Towns Fund.

The plans include new planting, lighting, and seating, and clearing the site of Crewe’s former library and the structure over the existing Civic Centre car park, which would then give the clear site needed for the new development.

The plans also include a new car park and a new two-storey entrance to the Magistrates’ Courts.

Councillor Nick Mannion, chair of Cheshire East Council’s economy and growth committee, said: “This project would provide the first part of a new and attractive pedestrian link through the cultural and civic quarter of the town centre and transform a space that historically has attracted anti-social behaviour. 

“Completion of a second and final phase of public realm works next to the planned history centre is planned to be delivered following construction of the centre and would include high-quality paving and planting areas, activity space, new seating, bike racks and public art.”

The second phase is also supported by the government’s Towns Fund. For further information and to view the plans for the history centre in Crewe, visit the council's planning portal and search for application reference 22/4451N.

The application reference for the civic and cultural space regeneration project is 22/4472N.

To view the plans for the history centre in Chester, visit Cheshire West and Chester Council's website and search for application reference 22/04233/FUL.

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