By KLTV Newsdesk –
Kirklees Council has published a proposal which asks Cabinet Members to invest £600,000 at the former Red House museum in Gomersal.
The proposal is to refurbish the Grade II listed house and neighbouring cart shed so that both properties can be let as luxury short-term holiday accommodation.
What is the Red House?
Dating back to 1660, the house and grounds are an important heritage asset due to their association with local Luddite activities, the Taylor family, most notably Mary Taylor, a writer and early feminist.
They are however most revered by Bronte fans, as Charlotte was a regular guest at the house, and gave it a starring role as ‘Briarmains’ in her novel ‘Shirley’.
Prior to its closure in 2016, Red House operated as a community museum, but dwindling visitor numbers and increasing costs made the site unsustainable going forward.
The decision to allow the property to be marketed for private sale prompted a petition from the Red House Heritage Group (RHHG) in 2019, which resulted in the Council’s Cabinet agreeing to explore alternative uses for the site which could maintain it in public hands.
What are the proposed plans?
This new approach proposes the house is refurbished to the highest standards in order to appeal to the luxury tourism market.
If agreed the house would accommodate 10 guests, with further proposals once the house is established including marriage ceremonies for guests.
Meanwhile, the cart shed would be split into four self-catering apartments, with broader appeal to both leisure and business travellers.
There are currently no proposals to include the barn in the commercial operation of the site, and it is proposed that it could be retained for community use.
The paper also proposes to suspend the commercial operation for a number of days and weekends each year, so that local people can still have access to the site to enjoy any pre-planned community activities and events.
Speaking about the proposal, Colin Parr, Strategic Director for Environment & Climate Change said: “The proposal detailed in the report will allow the council to retain the property in public ownership without incurring huge operating costs.
“We have looked at the example set by the National Trust and the Landmark Trust, who both renovate heritage buildings to let as holiday cottages as a way of sustaining them, and we are confident that this could be a business model that works for the council too.”
Colin noted that with the Red House’s broad appeal, the scheme could benefit tourism in the area by attracting people who are interested in the Brontë connection, and the prospect of staying in a house where Charlotte frequently visited and wrote about.
He added: “At the same time, we hope that the proposal will make it possible to offer managed community access to a site which we know is much-loved by local people.”
The RHHG, now known as the Red House Yorkshire Heritage Trust, said in a statement that their group’s priority remains that the heritage site is respected and protected in public or community hands.
The statement reads: “We recognise that for [the proposal] to happen, there must be an appropriate, sympathetic and financially viable use for the site, so while we certainly welcome the investment, we remain open-minded about the Council’s new approach.
“From conversations we have had with the Council, we are pleased that they recognise that our views on the future of Red House are important.
“We have been assured that although this proposal does have a commercial focus, there is a commitment to ensuring our local community can also access the site over a number of open weekends and specially-curated events throughout the year which pays homage to its outstanding heritage credentials.
“We look forward to being consulted as the project progresses and to celebrating the heritage of the site and facilitating access for the benefit of the local and wider community.”