Talks under way to turn Charles Darwin’s Shrewsbury home into tourist attraction
Talks are being held with the owners of Charles Darwin's birthplace with a view to purchasing it and transforming it into a tourist attraction.
The Valuation Office Agency, which is currently based at the property on The Mount, Shrewsbury, is to move out of the building.
The agency is only a tenant of the building, which is actually owned by property company Mapeley Estates, and it is likely to cost up to £750,000 to buy the building.
A steering group was set up by former Shrewsbury mayor Jane Mackenzie earlier this year with a view to securing Darwin's birthplace for the town. Any plan could involve other groups in the town, including its university.
The group has been negotiating directly with the owners to buy the freehold, which has a deadline of November.
Councillor Mackenzie will present an update on the group's progress to Shrewsbury Town Council on Monday.
She said: "We, the steering group, have set up a working group and we are negotiating directly with the owners to buy the freehold and there is a November deadline for this to be agreed.
"The University of Chester and Shropshire Wildlife Trust are leading on this.
"The owners didn't realise how significant the property was when they bought it as one of 600 buildings.
"We're exactly the group they want to talk to as we will benefit the public. They said they've had more interest in this one property than all 600 properties put together.
"This property is so significant. We're now putting together a business plan to propose to buy it from them.
"They need to know before Christmas. They initially valued it at around £650,000 to £750,000. The university and the wildlife trust are coming up with the business plan. It's going to be a combination of grants but those two organisations are going to come up with a proposition.
"I personally would be very supportive of the town council putting some money into this as this is going to make a big difference to Shrewsbury.
"We're really keen to set up a Friends of Mount House so if anyone wants to get in touch, please do so."
Councillor Mackenzie has previously said she would like the building to become a 'hub' rather than a museum.
Darwin was born in Shrewsbury on February 12, 1809, in Mount House and spent much of his early life in the town, including studying at Shrewsbury School.
It is thought the young Darwin spent his time in the county observing the environment which set him on the path to his discoveries.