THE creation of a multi-million-pound state-of-the-art archive centre in Ellesmere Port is to be considered by councillors on Friday.
The County Record Office in Duke Street, Chester, a former warehouse, is no longer considered fit to house 1,000 years of Cheshire history.
Storage space is so limited the building cannot accommodate all the archives in its care, let alone provide the required expansion space for the next 20 years.
The residue of 710 cubic metres of history is stored at Winsford Salt Mine, a former prison chapel and cells at Chester Castle and in the basement of Chester Town Hall – at a total cost of £62,000 a year.
A report before members of the Cheshire shared services committee, by county archivist Jonathan Pepler, recommends discussions are held with the Waterways Trust to establish a joint waterfront facility alongside the National Waterways Museum in Ellesmere Port.
If the idea is approved the purpose-built headquarters – boasting adequate storage and the correct environmental conditions – would house the Waterways Archive and Cheshire Record Office.
The office would be shared by Cheshire West and East plus Warrington and Halton councils under the continuing terms of an agreement first struck in 1998 after local government reorganisation.
The suggestion of a joint facility would ease the funding burden and, it is thought, increase the likelihood of grant funding from organisations such as the Heritage Lottery.
The long-term vision for the service should be a purpose-built facility to provide storage meeting current environmental standards for the archive collections and space for 20 years expansion.
It would also provide facilities to meet the expectations of users, and enable the delivery of a broader range of services and outreach activities to visitors and remote users.
The Waterways Trust, Ellesmere Port – which has recently merged with British Waterways to become the Canal and River Trust – is responsible for the boat museum and its archive collections.
It is planning to centralise the national archives from locations across the country to Ellesmere Port and expressed an interest in a joint venture.
The county archivist emphasises Ellesmere Port has potential for onsite parking and the museum provides a cafe and shop that customers could use, as well as train and bus links.