A timber chalet-style building for community activity looks likely to be built in the rear garden of a museum if a planning application is approved.

The plan for the Whitaker Museum in Rawtenstall has prompted some concerns including potential noise disturbance, bigger events, visitor toilets and facilities and the impact on trees.

However, it is envisaged to be part of a ‘community village’ for local groups, with only small workshops, educational and well-being activities held during normal museum hours, according to a council planning report.

Rossendale Council planning officers say the proposal is acceptable and they are recommending councillors to approve it.

The main Whitaker Museum building at Rawtenstall dates from the Victorian era but has some modern extensions. Planning officers say the proposed wooden chalet would not harm the site’s appearance. The Whitaker is described as a ‘non-designated heritage asset’.

A report to councillors on Rossendale’s Development Committee says an earlier planning statement was ‘vague’ about the use of the proposed new chalet. That caused a range of worries from residents living nearby. However, more information has since been provided.

Rossendale Council is the applicant behind the application. The Whitaker Museum is now part of Rossendale Leisure Trust, the arms-length organisation which runs swimming pools, leisure and culture venues owned by the council.

In the planning application, the council states: "The plan for the chalet in the Whitaker garden is to enable us to have an additional space to support our community and outreach work more than anything.

“We had funding to develop the garden space which is now complete and gives us a wonderful space behind the building that we hope to utilise much more and, eventually, make accessible to the public from the park at the rear.

“We already have Rossy Rays and Beacon Dementia groups utilising the old coach-house and a wooden workshop unit in the courtyard area. We want to build on this ‘community village’ initiative. Having an additional space will enable us to have further space for workshops, well-being activities and a space away from the main building for small talks, schools workshops and additional space for community groups to use.

"We often struggle for this kind of space within the museum, because most spaces are utilised for exhibitions and hospitality operation. We envisage the [new] space being used primarily during the museum opening hours.”

Heritage consultants at the Growth Lancashire organisation have been consulted, a planning report states. Overall, they feel that the proposed chalet would have a minor impact on the setting and significance of the museum. The cabin will be set back to the rear, obscured from view from the museum and extension.

The Whitaker has a premises licence which includes the whole of the park area. It is licensed for entertainment activities, late night refreshment and alcohol from Mondays to Sundays, from 10am to midnight for indoor spaces and until 11pm for the outdoor spaces. However, planning conditions can be imposed to control the cabin’s uses to smaller workshops, meetings, education and well-being activities, and to museum hours.