Go ahead for major Hartlepool museum plan

The  Maritime Experience.

The Maritime Experience.

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A DEAL that will see a national museum play a major role in Hartlepool’s top tourist attraction and potentially bring millions of pounds into the town has been given the go-ahead.

The National Museum of the Royal Navy (NMRN) is to invest heavily in Hartlepool Maritime Experience in a move that is set to boost visitor numbers and the town’s economy.

An arrangement for the navy museum to join forces with Hartlepool Borough Council, which owns the Maritime Experience, and the Trincomalee Trust, was unanimously backed by councillors yesterday.

It will see Hartlepool Maritime Experience run as a single-site operation and the navy museum invest in the site, which will include exhibits from its world-class exhibition.

The move is expected to give a significant boost in visitor numbers including more people staying overnight in Hartlepool, bringing millions more pounds to the local economy.

Damien Wilson, the council’s assistant director for regeneration, said: “The national museum’s planned marketing spending is way beyond the resources that the council and Trincomalee Trust have had.

“If they are looking to commit that level over a five-year period, you can see they are deliberately targeting visitors to the town.

“It is not only the shift in the number of visitors overall but the shift in the type of user. That will only enhance the likely spending.”

The Maritime Experience currently gets 45,000 paying visitors a year.

Council projections show if that rose to 80,000 they would bring £2.73million into the town, rising to £5million if it got 150,000 people a year.

The Royal Navy’s exhibitions portfolio includes exciting crowd-pulling pieces such as Harrier jump jets, Polaris missiles and submarines, although there is no indication what they could bring to Hartlepool yet.

John Rees, chief of staff and strategic director for the NMRN, told the Mail: “From our position the decision is great, now we can get on with things.

“It provides the opportunity to bring the right emphasis and support to make the Trincomalee and Hartlepool Maritime Experience a success.”

HMS Trincomalee, the oldest British warship afloat, berthed at Jackson Dock, is already a full subsidiary of the NMRN, but the new plans bring the rest of the Maritime Experience under the same NMRN umbrella.

But the council and Trincomalee Trust, along with the NMRN, will be part of the board of a new not-for-profit distribution company in charge of the attraction.