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Friday, 24 October 2014

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Maryport Roman centre plans hit by cash shortfall

A scheme to build a multi-million-pound Roman visitor centre in Maryport has stalled because of a funding shortfall of more than £1million.

roman 3
Plans for the development of Camp Road Farm, Maryport

Hadrian’s Wall Heritage wants to create the Roman Maryport centre at Camp Farm, which would house the Senhouse Roman Museum exhibits, a cafe and other facilities. It would also be the base for an ongoing excavation project.

But the £6.2million first stage of work has been delayed because the organisation behind it, which recently changed from a limited company to a charity, has not yet secured £1.1million of match funding to secure £5.1million pledged by the European Regional Development Fund and the Heritage Lottery Fund.

It is the second major setback for the project, which was initially planned as an £11million scheme, until the Government scrapped the Northwest Regional Development Agency, a planned major funder.

The charity still wants to deliver the £11million scheme eventually, and the £6.2million reduced scheme will be the first phase.

It is intended to be a visitor attraction in its own right, bringing in 35,000 people a year and creating the equivalent of 10 full-time direct jobs and 34 full-time jobs.

Michael Baker, project manager, said the two main funders had extended the charity’s deadline for securing match funding to June 8. By then, he said, two funding applications will have been submitted.

He added: “I can’t predict the outcomes of the applications but if they were both approved we would have the funding in place.

“The two existing funders have been extremely supportive and patient.”

Mr Baker said that if the bids were denied, the project would have to go back to stage one and apply for funding from the European Regional Development Fund and Heritage Lottery Fund from scratch.

The current £5.1million funding offer has been agreed in principle, subject to match funding being secured.

If the £1.1million was found, the charity would still need to make detailed bids before the £5.1million funding was released. Whatever the outcome, the completion of phase one will be delayed until at least 2015. It had been expected to open in 2013.

Despite the problems, Mr Baker said he was confident the scheme was not in jeopardy.

He said: “We have been working very hard and a lot of work has been continuing.

“If we weren’t successful by June 8 in securing the funding that we need we’ll simply start again.”

Mr Baker said the charity was continuing to operate as Hadrian’s Wall Heritage until it officially relaunches as Hadrian’s Wall Trust.

He added: “We are retaining our assets under the new name. Nothing has changed.”

Mr Baker said the Senhouse Roman Museum’s excavations would play an important part in the future of Camp Farm.

The first phase of excavations last year uncovered the foundations of a significant building.

Experts discovered that Maryport’s collection of Roman altars, previously thought to have been buried to preserve them, had actually been used as building material in the foundations.

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