No new taxpayers’ money for struggling Magna Centre

Magna Centre
Magna Centre
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The struggling Magna Science Adventure Centre will get no further money from Rotherham Council, it has been announced.

The tourist attraction has outstanding loans of £440,000 to the council and it has been decided that Magna will be given extra time to repay the money.

Officials from the Magna Trust said the deal meant the future for the site is ‘looking bright’, despite the withdrawal of any further funding.

Rotherham Council leader Chris Read said Magna closing would result in 80 job losses and the council writing off hundreds of thousands of pounds it is owed.

Currently Magna, which attracts around 100,000 visitors a year, owes debts to the council which are made up of a £190,000 long term loan which is secured against a building and a £250,000 short term loan which has previously had to be renewed annually.

The centre opened on the former Templeborough steelworks in 2001.

A proposal, to be agreed at next month at a full council meeting, will mean a structured repayment plan on the combined loans over a period of 10 to 15 years, with flexibility around earlier repayments.

The report to be presented to councillors next month will also make recommendations about how Magna’s legal arrangements can be changed in order to allow the trustees more control over Magna’s affairs, and potentially open up new financial opportunities.

Council Leader Coun Chris Read said: “None of us wants to see Magna close its doors. Such a closure would see as many as eighty people lose their jobs, the Council would inevitably have to write off hundreds of thousands of pounds of debt currently owed by Magna, and in all likelihood we would be left with the costs of maintaining the former industrial site.

“But – as I have said before – neither can we afford to see more and more public money going into Magna. By working with the trustees to restructure the council’s debts and make repayment manageable, we will keep this popular visitor attraction open and maximise the opportunity for the taxpayer to see the loans returned to the Council.”

John Silker, chief executive of Magna Trust, said: “The future of Magna is looking bright. Our event bookings are up by 14 per cent this year and are on target to top £1m. We get bookings from all over the country. For example we recently hosted conferences for Wickes and Volkswagen.

“Our visitor numbers are holding steady and each year we host about 30,000 school children on educational visits.

“Since I took over in 2013 the plan has been to cut the need to borrow money and we are confident that we will be in a position to stand on our own two feet going forward.

“We very much appreciate the ongoing support of Rotherham Council and we continue to work closely with them as we move in to an exciting future.

“We have several projects in the pipeline, to continue to develop Magna as landmark venue; create jobs and bring investment into the area. For example we have been talking to hotel developers about possible development on the site.

“What many people don’t realise is that, unlike many other attractions, galleries and museums, we do not receive grants which we can keep. Instead we pay back money we borrow at commercial rates of interest and we will continue to pay that money back to Rotherham Council.

“As a giant former steelworks Magna is a true cathedral to industry and an important part of the region’s industrial heritage.”