Council bosses in Northumberland are to provide £2m towards plugging a shortfall in funding for a new visitor centre on Hadrian’s Wall.
Northumberland National Park Authority has agreed to accept Northumberland County Council’s offer of a £1.5m interest free loan and a grant of £500,000 towards the £12.7m cost of the Sill National Landscape Discovery Centre.
The money will help to plug a £3m gap in the funding pledged so far and it is hoped it will increase the chances of the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), providing just over £7m - with a bid for that amount having been made to that body and a decision due later this month.
The chairman of the authority, who is also a county councillor, said he was pleased to have “significant support” from the authority and said he was hoping for a “positive outcome” labelling the “transformational” project a “marvellous opportunity” which would create 120 jobs and generate £2.7m for the region’s economy each year.
The county council’s leader said it “fully supports” the project and that the scheme would “generate significant employment opportunities for our residents.”
The Sill, a visitor and landscape discovery centre, would replace the present Once Brewed centre on Hadrian’s Wall and is being developed by the authority in conjunction with the Youth Hostels Association (England and Wales.)
The HLF approved initial proposals for the project in 2012 and has already given the park a £400,000 grant to develop its proposals.
Planning permission and scheduled ancient monument consent are already in place.
The authority has now accepted the council’s offer of £2m towards a £3m shortfall.
It is hoped the funding pledge will increase the chances of the HLF approving the authority’s bid for £7m, submitted in October, with its national committee to decide that later this month based on feedback from its regional body.
The park is to inform the HLF it would act as underwriter for the project.
The council and authority issued a joint statement yesterday confirming the £2m offer had been accepted.
Grant Davey, leader of the council, said: “The county council fully supports the national park authority in its bid to deliver such an ambitious project.
“The county council wishes to promote both economic growth and employment and the visitor economy across the whole of Northumberland.
“The project will generate significant employment opportunities for our residents.
“The county council’s strong working relationship with (authority chairman) John Riddle and his team has greatly facilitated this exciting initiative and our involvement.”
Coun Riddle, also Conservative county councillor for Bellingham, said: “This has been an exciting and complex project to develop, not least in the challenges we have faced getting funding.
“As we reach one of the final hurdles, I am pleased to have received such significant support from the county council.”
He told The Journal the Sill was an “oven ready” scheme which had the potential to create 120 jobs and generate £2.7m for the region’s economy each year.
Coun Riddle added: “I am hoping for a positive outcome for this project.
“If it comes off - and there is an if, there is no guarantee we will get the lottery funding, I just think it is a marvellous opportunity, it will be transformational really.”
Should the bid to HLF be successful, the authority and its partners will need to continue to fundraise to make up the remainder of the shortfall.
The project aims to begin in autumn 2015 with the centre opening in 2017.