‘Fantastical’ storytelling museum gains planning permission

Proposals for a turreted museum celebrating the history of storytelling have been given the green light by Oxford City Council’s planning committee.

The unusual design of the £11 million Story Museum includes roof top walkways and an enchanted library, and the designers have been granted permission to make the building more “fantastical” without further consultation.

The application met with unanimous support at a meeting of the Council’s west area planning committee in the Town Hall on Wednesday.

The Museum’s co-director Kim Pickin said: “This marks a new chapter in the Museum’s progress from pauper to prince – and brings us another step closer to the palace. We’re delighted that our vision for a world centre of story has been endorsed by the city of Oxford.”

Plans for the site in Penbroke street cover the refurbishment, repair and upgrade of three existing buildings and courtyard. £3.5 million has already been raised, including an anonymous donation of £2.2 million, and the Story Museum needs to secure a further £8 million to see all its plans realised.

A development programme has been underway since May with the hope of raising the rest of the money. Three major exhibitions, storytelling, talks, tours and workshops have brought visitors into part of the dilapidated building and the team is planning further magic for 2013.

Pickin said: “We’ve had a hugely eventful year. Nearly 15,000 adults and young people have visited so far and been intrigued by the place and its potential for stirring the imagination.” The whole Museum is scheduled to open all year round to the public from the end of 2015 and will combine exhibitions, performances and creative activities as a symbol of the importance of children’s story.

Miranda Lim, a 2nd year from St Peters College said: “The Story Museum is an innovative educational proposal and has its perfect home in ‘the city of dreaming spires’, with its rich heritage for learning. The museum is a novel way to promote literacy as it will allow pupils to actively develop their creative faculties outside the confines of the classroom.”

She added: “It is sure to be an immensely popular destination for schools across the country as well as a hotspot for tourists.”

Zoe Bullock, a 2nd year English student at New College, was also impressed with the concept. She said: “It sounds like a great idea and feeds into the city’s tradition as the origin of children’s stories such as Alice in Wonderland, especially if it manages to both educate and enthuse those who go to it.”

However Zoe also expressed concern that the museum could “easily become very tacky and tourist-focused.” She added: “The idea of 11 million pounds spent on creating a ‘fantastical’ building to house [the Story Museum] in could seem like misspent money given the current economic climate.”

Another student who wished to remain anonymous said: “The design for the Story Museum sounds awesome; I can’t wait to see it realised and let my imagination run wild!”