Planning with our fingers crossed

14 01 2011

It’s been rather too long since my last post but I hope I can be forgiven as since September we have submitted our second round assessment to the Heritage Lottery Fund for £8 million towards our new extension – a huge task.  We’ve also done a full planning application, as well as the usual daily business of opening exhibitions (The Land Between Us) and welcoming people to the gallery – 172,000 last year!  Our best ever visitor figures.

We’ve also continued to work with MUMA and the design team to refine to the design – fine-tuning it drawing on feedback from visitors and a range of different users as well as taking into account input from our specialist advisors from the Heritage Lottery Fund and our own University Estates department.  The upshot of all this is that the design looks brilliant – both beautiful and fit for our purposes.  In the coming weeks they’ll be some great images of the various parts of the new and old building going up on the blog.

We had Manchester City Council planners and planning advisors visit earlier this week – as part of their assessment of our planning application.  All a bit nerve-wracking but Stuart from MUMA did a fantastic presentation and I talked to them about the importance of the project for our local communities as well as for our university and city.  They seemed interested and impressed.

But mostly at the moment we are planning for how we will make the design and the plans for the Whitworth’s future real – thinking 5, 10 and even 20 years into a new future as a green gallery in a beautiful park.  But we’re planning with our fingers crossed – and the next few weeks are critical.  On January 24th, the Trustees and officers from the Heritage Lottery Fund come to do their final assessment of the project, before making their decision at the national Trustees board on February 15th.  Manchester City Council planners also make their decision about granting planning permission in the next few weeks.  We need yes from both bodies and then the project can – for definite and for real – go ahead.  Keep your fingers crossed with us and let’s hope my next post will be a celebratory one.

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