September 21 2014 Latest news:
Wednesday, May 14, 2014
Borough council officials are expecting to hear whether their multi-million pound bid to transform the town’s High Street Museum is still on track within the next few weeks.
They are waiting to hear whether the bid for a £2 million development grant – which would enable detailed plans for a £20 million facelift for the museum, art school, and Wolsey Studio to be drawn up – has been successful.
But they are braced for the possibility that it could still take a long time before there is any work to bring together the various elements into a single cultural campus.
Council bosses have been told that a decision by the Heritage Lottery Fund is expected to be released at the end of May or in early June – it will not be announced before this month’s local council elections which take place on May 22.
There are three possible decisions: flat refusal because the whole scheme has no merit, support in principle but with the council asked to do more work before any development money could be allocated for the scheme to proceed, or a full acceptance of the scheme – allowing the next phase of planning to go ahead without delay.
Officials are confident that there will be no flat refusal. One said: “I think the principle of the proposed scheme is generally accepted and everyone would be surprised if the HLF said it had no merit at all.”
It is not uncommon for the HLF to ask for more information, or even to invite an applicant to work with outside experts to help sharpen up a bid that does not meet the standards needed for a huge amount of money.
However if that is the decision in this case, it would be a disappointment to the council because it would effectively put back the scheme for at least a year.
If the £2 million is granted now, the earliest a decision could be made on the full £20 million application would be at the end of 2016, and the earliest the work could be completed would be 2019.
However if the scheme does not get an immediate go-ahead, officials from Ipswich should be able to get advice from their partners in Colchester who successfully applied for a £3.2 million grant from the HLF to go towards the £4.2 million restoration of Colchester Castle.
However the Ipswich bid would be a totally different scale.
Ipswich councillor with responsibility for leisure Bryony Rudkin said: “We are waiting to hear the decision – but whatever it is, we are hoping to go ahead with proposals to develop the museum over the next few years.”