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Museum of Military Medicine in Cardiff gets planning application approved

Museum of Military Medicine planned for Cardiff Bay. Image credit Scott Brownrigg

The planning application for the Museum of Military Medicine has been approved subject to conditions set by Cardiff Council.

The new Museum in Cardiff Bay will bring to Wales the most comprehensive collection of archives and exhibitions documenting the legacy of British military medicine and aims to host the UK’s first 8k immersive interactive video space.

Following the planning committee’s announcement, the team behind the Museum of Military Medicine has also reiterated its commitment to work with communities in Butetown and its surrounding areas to create a venue that will serve and benefit local residents and attract tourism from across Wales and the UK.

The Museum, which is currently based in Surrey, tells the story of military healthcare disciplines including medicine, nursing, dental, veterinary and allied health professions, from the civil war era to the current day. It explores developments in military medicine, including many that have gone on to be used in hospitals around the world to save lives and provide treatments that improve quality of life and wellbeing. Those stories are told though exhibitions, archives and collections that incorporate over 30,000 objects that preserve the heritage of those who have saved lives through service.

The Museum’s search for a new location saw several UK cities considered and it was the Welsh capital’s medical heritage and innovations that first indicated its potential, before the Museum was then invited to submit a planning application on the Cardiff Council owned land at Britannia Quay.

Cardiff’s historical connections to military medicine include the Royal Hamadryad Hospital and before that, HMS Hamadryad, a hospital ship that first arrived in Cardiff’s docks in 1866. The Museum will gather stories from around Wales, like that of the 130th St John Field Ambulance, a unit that saw trained rescue and ambulance teams from the South Wales coal fields travel to France to save lives in the First World War.

The approved application and move to Cardiff will now see the Museum continue to engage with the local community to ensure its heritage, diversity and stories feature heavily in its exhibitions. The Museum will arrange virtual meetings with local organisations to agree how it can best be used as a space to serve the community. Organisations interested in taking part in these conversations should contact [email protected]

The Museum has already forged a relationship with the Race Council Cymru to develop and facilitate meetings that will enable the local community to share their opinions on plans for the Museum.

Judge Ray Singh CBE, Chair of the Race Council Cymru said: “Race Council Cymru, Black History Wales 365 and Windrush Cymru Elders are delighted to partner with the Museum’s project management team to ensure that the views and contributions of people from diverse ethnic backgrounds are considered and incorporated in the establishment of the Museum. Black History Cymru 365 committee will be facilitating conversations with community groups in the area to explore how the community can contribute. This is a great opportunity for the community to get involved.”

Situated on the water’s edge, approximately 90 per cent of the Museum’s ground floor will be transparent to maintain a view of the dockside. The majority of the facility – 80 per cent – will sit on existing rough stone or hard landscaped land on the site of the previous Cardiff Bay Visitors Centre, The Tube. The Museum will also provide a café, shop, public toilets, a reading room, research facilities and an auditorium, which will be open for the community use.

Landscaping surrounding the Museum will follow conditions set by planners. This will see the Museum work with Cardiff Council on a landscaping plan for Britannia Park and its delivery, which include the relocation of the Locky’s Cottage by specialist contractors.

Jason Semmens, director of the Museum of Military Medicine said: “This decision by Cardiff Council’s planning department is a major milestone in our vision to create a world class visitor attraction that will showcase and inspire further medical advancements and bring new resources and technology to Wales.

“Our goal is to create a national venue that will benefit its local community as we work with educators, healthcare providers and those creating lifesaving technologies that will support future lifesaving innovations. The Museum will become a centre for new educational programmes, foster research partnerships, and create in Cardiff Bay an institution that demonstrates Wales’ place at the forefront of UK innovation in healthcare.”