Ambitious plans to build a striking art gallery and museum in Swindon have been rejected by a major funding body.
The team behind the project were hoping for a £12.7m grant from Heritage Lottery Fund towards the £22m total. But this week the HLF confirmed the bid has been unsuccessful.
The decision is a major blow to Swindon Museum & Art Gallery Trust, and to Swindon Council and the business community, who had hoped the venue would increase town centre footfall, attract inward investment, and lead to the organic creation of a cultural hub around Theatre Square.
The Trust said it was now looking at 'other options' as a venue to house and display what is recognised as one of the best collections of contemporary art outside of London.
The collection was amassed during the 1980s – a time of massive housing expansion in Swindon – through taxes collected from developers.
Robert Hiscox, chairman of the Swindon Museum and Art Gallery Trust, said: “The work done on the bid has not been wasted, as the profile of Swindon’s culturally important collections has been raised locally and nationally, and has generated huge amounts of engagement around the importance of culture to the people of Swindon.
"We have been overwhelmed by the support we have received and want to thank everyone for all their hard work and passion.
“For the last few years we have been very focused on the bid but now we have the opportunity to step back and explore options and look at alternative possibilities.
“Over the coming months we will be consulting with stakeholders and the public to get as much input as we can on how to fulfil our ambition to create something that will be transformational for Swindon and a source of civic pride that everyone can enjoy.”
The leader of Swindon Borough Council, Cllr David Renard, said: “We are disappointed the Trust’s bid was not selected by the HLF but we will not let this setback dim our ambition for a new Museum and Art Gallery.
“The feedback we received from the HLF throughout the bid process was greatly encouraging and that, coupled with the huge show of public support we received, has made us even more determined to give our magnificent collections of art and historical artefacts an appropriate home.
“The benefits of a new museum and art gallery cannot be underestimated. It will not only encourage millions of people to Swindon, but act as a catalyst for significant investment in the surrounding area, acting as a symbol of our ambition for the town.
“We knew we were up against some extremely tough competition, but we are committed to regenerating the cultural quarter area which will also include the Wyvern Theatre over time. We will be working with the Trust, stakeholders and Swindon residents on all the available options and will announce these plans in due course.”