A TOURIST attraction could be forced to close now its owners have been issued with an eviction notice by council chiefs.
Thousands of children from all over the borough and across the UK visit the Toy Museum in Tynemouth every year to find out more about playthings popular with youngsters in years gone by.
Although the Grand Parade museum only opens to the public over Easter and during the summer holidays, it hosts up to five school visits a week.
Its owners, Tony and Maureen Bracken and their son, also called Tony, were left shocked after being sent an eviction letter by North Tyneside Council asking them to vacate the premises by next Wednesday.
The bombshell came after the Brackens drew up refurbishment plans for the museum including re-plastering its walls and creating a gift shop, café, disabled toilets and possibly an events area to the rear.
They even kept the 4,000sq ft museum closed this summer so they could make a start on getting their planned improvements under way.
Tony said: “I sold around 700 of the 10,000 toys we have to help buy new stock and pay for the refurbishment.
“We drew up the plans and submitted them to the council but heard nothing back, then we got this letter out of the blue.
“We’ve offered the council a rent in line with the other units, but it refused.
“We can’t understand why the council wants to close an educational facility. We’re the only toy museum between Edinburgh and Manchester.”
Although the 65-year-old has put many of the toys – some dating back 100 years – in storage, he fears he will be unable to find an alternative home for them and will have to shut up shop.
This is the second time in its 27-year history that the museum has faced eviction as 19 years ago it was forced to move out of its then base on the lower promenade in Whitley Bay as council chiefs were looking to sell those units.
Tony said: “I found this place. It was just a run-down shack used as a storage yard.
“We weren’t given a lease by the council. We were just allowed to move in.
“I put electricity in and tidied it up. I’ve spent days and nights in here fixing it up, repairing toys, but the building needs a lot of investment.
“I want to keep going, but I need help. This is a passion not a business.”
He added: “We get thousands of kids every year coming through the doors.
“Our toys are memories for adults while we show children how things used to be and how the old toys work.
“We always get positive feedback. The public love this place.”
The Brackens have started a campaign in the hope of getting the council to change its mind, setting up a ‘Save the Toy Museum’ group on the social networking site Facebook.
A council spokesperson said: “The Toy Museum has in the past been a successful and popular visitor attraction on our coastline, which we have supported, including charging a peppercorn rent.
“However, we have been aware that on many occasions, including during the current summer holiday period, the museum has remained closed, leaving visitors unable to enjoy the museum.
“We are also aware that some of the museum’s collections have recently been sold at auction.
“The council has written twice recently to the tenants to seek clarification regarding the use of the property and to seek an opportunity to discuss our concerns, but with no response.
“In view of the continued lack of response to our communications, as a responsible land and property owner accountable to its taxpayers, and of the prominence of the property at the coast, we have had no option but to instigate termination proceedings.
“We continue to be open to further discussion with Mr Bracken should he choose to respond to our letters.
“No decision has been taken regarding the marketing or re-letting of the property. However, any future use would be required to complement the coastal offer for residents and visitors.”