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Lack of funds sinks Benson + Forsyth's Beamish scheme

Benson + Forsyth’s competition-winning Beamish Museum Visitor Centre scheme in County Durham has been shelved.

Project backer Beamish Joint Committee has ditched the high-profile ‘gateway building’ at the open-air museum following the collapse of the funding package.

The contest was thrust into the limelight two years ago when the committee – made up of council and museum representatives – controversially decided to vote on Benson + Forsyth’s appointment, despite the firm being named as victor by the RIBA jury (AJ 28.09.06).

Now it has emerged that the committee has failed to secure enough cash for the £12 million scheme after unsuccessfully bidding for money from both the Heritage Lottery Fund and the North East Regional Development Agency.

A spokesman said: ‘It has become apparent that the project would not gain funding as it could not justify its cost on the basis of the benefits to be provided. The Joint Committee has come to the conclusion that it would not be prudent to continue and has decided not to proceed with the visitor centre project.’

Meanwhile, the AJ has uncovered that the Northern Rock Foundation also snubbed the museum’s application for a much-needed £500,000 donation – despite having the funds available.

Rob Williamson, policy director at the foundation, the troubled bank’s charitable arm, said: ‘There was simply no point in them having our money when they didn’t have the big bucks in place.’

It is understood the practice had prepared all the planning drawings before being told to stop work. A source at the firm said it was ‘dismayed’ and blamed a ‘lack of leadership’.

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