DAMP conditions are affecting the health of staff and volunteers working at a museum, it has been claimed.

The claim was made during a debate about grant aid to Bridport Museum Trust to help tackle damp problems at the Coach House stores and offices of the museum in Gundry Lane.

Conditions are said to be so bad in the building that some workers are only able to spend a limited time in the building.

The conditions have also caused damage to local history archive materials which will cost £25,000 to restore.

Bridport councillor David Rickard told West Dorset District Council's (WDDC) strategy committee that the building, given its previous use, was not constructed to the same standards as a house.

He said the trust did not discover the damp until it had been in the building for some time, by which some items had already been damaged.

“Lots of volunteers can only work there for a short time because of the damp and there have been those who have reported respiratory problems,” he said.

This was later refuted by Bridport Museum Trust.

Councillors agreed the grant for restoration work and an additional £10,000 for a specialist assessment to work out how to tackle the damp problem, if it can be overcome.

The building, and others run by the Trust, including the main museum, will transfer to the Dorset Council when it comes into being in April.

Councillors were told that the Coach House provides stores and accommodation for around 60 volunteers and a small number of staff.

It accommodates the Local History Centre with around 20,000 items and 30,000 documents and photographs.

Many of the items relate to the Jurassic Coast and the town’s rope industry.

Conditions in the building are said to be so poor in places that it could jeopardise the museum’s accredited status with Arts Council England.

A temporary home for the archive material, documents and photographs may be found at The Grove which the committee agreed to lease to Bridport Town Council in a bid to alleviate the problems.

Speaking after the meeting, Emily Hicks, director at Bridport Museum, said noone had reported health problems due to the damp.

She said: “We are extremely grateful to WDDC for their support and assistance in dealing with the damp problems and helping to save the collections.

“We have been aware of the issues for some time and have plans in place to safeguard our collections for the longer term. The health and safety of all our wonderful volunteers is paramount, and if we find the damp becomes a problem in the future, then naturally we will take appropriate action.”