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Museum of Military Intelligence scraps contentious competition for new base

WW2 recording studio in Milton Bryan, Bedfordshire
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The Museum of Military Intelligence (MMI) has abandoned its controversial design tender after the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) refused to support its plans for a new £4.7 million base

The surprise move comes after several architects walked away from their bids following shock revelations that the procurement process was being run by one of the teams bidding for the contract.

Cragg Management Services (CMS) – which drew up the feasibility study and was also administering the tender and bidding for the next phase – cancelled the tender ‘with immediate effect’ after the HLF’s board refused to support the project last month (14 December).

In a statement issued on behalf of the museum’s trustees, CMS said: ‘As a consequence of the HLF decision, the client team at MMI has elected to cancel the tender process with immediate effect. Any companies which have already posted tender submissions will have their submissions returned to them unopened.

The statement continued: ‘MMI trustees have asked me to express their regret for any adverse impact cancellation of the tender has had on you and your team. MMI is grateful for the interest you have shown in its project.’

Procurement experts criticised the museum for allowing project manager CMS to draft the invitation to tender – including questions and evaluation criteria – and act as the sole point of contact for bidders interested in advancing the museum’s new headquarters in Milton Bryan, Bedfordshire.

While the museum said that the evaluation of bids would be done objectively by the museum alone and not by CMS, Kay Hughes of competitions consultancy Khaa said in her view the procurement process lacked impartiality, carried ‘lots of risks’ and should be investigated by the HLF, which was being asked to fund the project.

However, an HLF spokesperson said it had turned down the museum’s funding bid because of the sheer volume of funding applications.

‘We know this is disappointing news for the Museum of Military Intelligence,’ the spokesperson said. ‘Unfortunately we have a high level of competition for grants and we are unable to support all the applications we receive.’

Asked whether a second application with a revised procurement route would be welcomed, the spokesperson declined to comment on the procurement concerns and replied: ‘Any future application would be a decision for the applicants.’

Chris Boyce, director and founder of Assorted S+T*, was one of several architectural practices to abandon their bids for the project following the revelations surrounding CMS’s involvement in the tender.

Commenting on the funding decision, he said: ‘It’s a shame for the project and I hope the project sponsor and HLF can come to an agreement for a more transparent and fair procurement process in future as the subject matter is very relevant so a museum would be a great boost for the local economy.’

Close to 100 companies expressed interest in the project although it is unknown how many submitted compliant tenders, which will now remain unopened.

The museum documents the history of British military intelligence from the Crimea War to the modern age. It is currently based at the former RAF Chicksands and is only open by appointment.

The scrapped project aimed to transform a 2ha plot within the village of Milton Bryan, which contains several disused structures along with a derelict Grade II-listed recording studio (pictured) used to record propaganda for broadcast behind enemy lines during the Second World War.

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