Plans for a new Paisley Museum which could bring hundreds of thousands of visitors into the town have taken a leap forward after new funding plans were unveiled.

Cllr Mark Macmillan at Paisley Museum with a Paisley shawl
Cllr Mark Macmillan at Paisley Museum with a Paisley shawl

The museum revamp is central to Renfrewshire Council’s ambitious plans to use Paisley’s unique heritage and cultural assets to transform its future, including a bid for UK City of Culture 2021.

And councillors will this week run the rule over a refreshed funding strategy aimed at turning the museum into an international-class visitor destination.

It is predicted the museum will triple current visitor numbers to 125,000 a year, be worth £75m to the local economy over the next 30 years and create 160 new jobs.

Under the new plans, the overall project cost has been reduced from the initial £56.7m to £49m – achieved by working with the architects to reduce the scale of the proposed building work, in a way which still delivers the original aims.

That total is made up by:
– Renfrewshire Council increasing its contribution to £26m from the initial £15m. The bulk of this will come from money already set aside for town centre regeneration;
– an application to the Heritage Lottery Fund for £10m, with councilors being asked to authorise that approach;
– applications for £4m funding from Scotland-wide funding sources;
– an ask of a further £4m of direct funding from UK and Scottish Government;

That would leave a gap of £5m, to be raised through a major fundraising campaign, and which has been assessed as a realistic target over a five-year period.

The new project plans were developed after extensive discussion with experts in museum and major infrastructure projects, and feedback from likely funders.

An initial application to HLF for £15m earlier this year was unsuccessful – with them advising the project needed a greater degree of guaranteed funding to have a better chance of lottery money at a later date.

Renfrewshire Council Leader Mark Macmillan said: “We have already made huge steps forward in recent years with our ambitious plans to use Paisley’s unique heritage assets to drive a transformation of Renfrewshire’s future.

“The proposals to revamp Paisley Museum are the signature project of that and will create a lasting legacy for the town and wider area.

“That will include major tourist footfall to the High Street, and a multi-million-pound boost to the local economy, supporting new jobs and opportunities for local people.

“The project will also retell the inspirational stories of Paisley’s heritage and Pattern by involving local people, provide an outstanding learning resource, and help change perceptions of the town at home and abroad.

“But transformation of that scale and ambition cannot be achieved without major investment and there is no option but for to the council to find its share of that.

“Major projects of this scale are rarely funded on the first ask, but the application process saw us receive some positive feedback about the ambition and viability of the project from funders.

“We also learned what we need to do to have a better chance of being funded next time – and that was to have a greater proportion of the project cost in place.

“The near-£7m reduction in cost and increased contribution from council resources will bridge that gap, while we now have a more robust fundraising strategy in place to bring in the rest of the investment needed from government and other sources.

“We remain excited by what this project will mean for Renfrewshire and believe the plans we are putting in place today will make it a reality.”

The proposals would see an extension to the existing museum, which is operated by Renfrewshire Leisure, to contain a reception, café, shop and weaving studio.

There would also be an extensive refurbishment of the current Victorian-era building, doubling the amount of the town’s collection which could go on view and fixing current issues with disabled access.

If the funding is secured, the museum would close to the public in 2018 and fully reopen in 2022, with development of the project playing a key part in the programme for UK City of Culture 2021, should Paisley win the title.

Related work includes the new publicly-accessible museum store currently being constructed on Paisley’s High Street and due to open in 2017, as well as the plans to move Paisley Central Library from its current home in the museum building to a new facility on the High Street.

The proposals will be considered by members of the council’s Leadership Board on Wednesday 30 November.