Letter: Lottery funds for Neptune Hall

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From Lord Rothschild

Sir: Although it is not our practice to comment publicly on applications under consideration, Colin Brown's article ("Philip wades into battle for lottery cash", 16 October) about the National Maritime Museum's application should not go unanswered. The NMM did, indeed, apply to us for a grant in January. The project is an important and complex one, involving the expenditure of some pounds 14m. The Trustees of the National Heritage Memorial Fund have, at all times, made it clear to the NMM that although they support the Neptune Hall scheme in principle, some aspects of the application concern them.

The distributors of the National Lottery have been asked to ensure that applications for lottery funds are of a high quality, and we take this consideration very seriously. Our concerns have been based on the detailed expert advice we have sought on this project, including the views of the Royal Fine Arts Commission and a number of independent experts of undoubted standing. Concerns were also raised following a visit to the NMM by members of our expert panel and by trustees.

We have been most careful to keep the NMM informed at every stage of the progress of the application. In conjunction with the NMM and English Heritage, we are now working towards a solution which we hope we will be in a position to announce in the near future. This solution, we believe, will address the concerns raised by our expert advisers; will ensure that this major project is at a suitable stage for any millennium celebrations; and that this remarkable museum can be appreciated by visitors well into the 21st century. We hope that the revised scheme will command unequivocal support and enthusiasm from all quarters. An ambitious development of the Neptune Hall deserves nothing less.

Lastly, I would like to point out for accuracy that the grant to the Royal Opera House was made by the Arts Council and not by the National Heritage Memorial Fund.

Yours faithfully,

Rothschild

Chairman

National Heritage Memorial Fund

London, SW1

16 October

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