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HLF change of heart signals end of big museum projects

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A change in policy at the Heritage Lottery Fund seems to have put paid to the development of major new museum buildings. Casualties of this approach include the proposed Imperial War Museum of the North in Trafford, designed by Daniel Libeskind, and the Museum of Wales element of the Wales Millennium Centre.

Geoff Marsh, assistant director (planning and development) at the Imperial War Museum, said the Heritage Lottery Fund had told him it was not prepared to analyse the project because of its changing priorities. The museum, he said, 'is currently assessing our situation'. The project has been offered £8.1 million from the European Regional Development Fund provided it can obtain the other funding it needs in the next six months. It had asked the hlf for £32 million.

A spokeswoman for the hlf said, 'The trustees have to decide which projects are a priority. Big projects will become rarer.' Until now, 50 per cent of grant applications have been successful, but in the forthcoming year, although it anticipates about the same volume of applications as last year (£1.6 billion), the fund will have only £250 million to hand out. 'The problem was,' said the spokeswoman, 'that the sum requested represented a significant proportion of the total budget for museums. The highest priority is given to improving the housing and presentation of collections in existing museums.'

Meanwhile, the Museum of Wales and the Wales Millennium Centre are discussing options for the museum element after failing to win hlf funding. 'I don't understand why the hlf turned it down,' said John Rudge, chief executive of project architect Percy Thomas Partnership.

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