Bid to save £18m GCR museum underway after Lottery funding bombshell

GREAT Central Railway directors have spent the festive season investigating the possibility of saving the scheme to build an £18 million national-standard landmark museum at Leicester North, after the project was delivered a pre-Christmas ‘body blow’ by principal backer the Heritage Lottery Fund.

On December 13, both the railway and the heritage sector in general were left stunned when the Lottery pulled the plug on the project, announcing that it would not be giving it £9.5 million as earlier indicated.

However, both the railway and partner Leicester City Council have said they are determined to explore all options for alternative funding so that the prestigious project can be saved.

An artists’ impression of the proposed museum at Leicester North for which the Heritage Lottery Fund has now withdrawn £9.5 million of finance. WILKINSONEYRE

In 2015, the GCR secured a Stage One pass from the Heritage Lottery Fund as part of the grant allocation to build a museum to house locomotives, carriages and other significant items from the National Collection alongside the running tracks at the Leicester North terminus. The museum was designed to tell the story of how the GCR and other railways contributed to the social and economic history of Leicestershire.

The scheme was prepared as a partnership between the heritage line, Leicester City Council and the National Railway Museum. Architect WilkinsonEyre’s radical design for the new museum was chosen from a shortlist of six candidates following extensive public consultation in early October 2016. The museum was due to open in 2021, and it was hoped that it would help the GCR attract 230,000 visitors a year and provide Leicester, home of the National Space Centre, with another tourist attraction of national significance.

However, the Lottery has now said that because of concerns about the stage of the development of the project, and the perceived delivery risks, it would not be providing the funding requested.

The Lottery’s decision has been especially disappointing in view of the progress being made by the GCR is bridging the Midland Main Line at Loughborough so it can both connect to the GCR (Nottingham) and also accept main line charters – many of which would have brought visitors to the new museum.

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