Punch project 'will go ahead'
THE organisers of an ambitious project to build a visitor centre and ensure the survival of the Suffolk Punch horse announced yesterday the £4million scheme would still go ahead – despite the failure to attract lottery funding.
THE organisers of an ambitious project to build a visitor centre and ensure the survival of the Suffolk Punch horse announced yesterday the £4million scheme would still go ahead - despite the failure to attract lottery funding.
They said the project for the Hollesley Bay Colony Stud, near Woodbridge, was ''alive and kicking'' - but they warned it would take longer to deliver and the attractions would have to be phased in.
The Suffolk Punch Trust has failed to obtain a £2.8m grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF). Trustees will now ask the Prison Service to extend the deadline to exercise an option to buy the stud by 12 months to give them more time to raise money.
John Marsh, project manager, said: ''HLF will accept a fresh application for funding but have implied that a new request would need to be for a much smaller sum.
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''The part played by the stud in the resettlement of prisoners at HM Prison Hollesley also needs to continue and indeed expand. Moreover, the education and heritage centre will create new jobs, give a boost to a rural economy and benefit the region generally through increased tourism and inward investment.''
Professional fundraisers are being appointed to generate more money quickly for the appeal.
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Mr Marsh said: ''The need to realise the dream has not gone. HLF money would have enabled us to deliver in 18 months and now we are talking five years but the trustees still want to realise the goal.
''The difference is that we cannot do it all at once and therefore it will be phased. This means it will cost more because the costs will rise over the years instead of having a builder in and getting it all done at once.
''We also have to make sure that we create something that is not a one-hit wonder and that people will want to return.
''We would like to launch a Friends of the Suffolk Punch Trust and this would make a major contribution to the costs. There are so many people out there who are passionate about this project and I am sure they would want to join. We have had more than 1,000 donations and raised £45,000. These are ordinary men and women making a contribution and now we could do with the wealthy people in the county making a contribution.''
Bruce Smith, stud groom, said: ''It is an important group of horses here and they have been here since the turn of the century.
''Some other studs have sold up and we have lost a few in the last 20 years. There is a danger with family-run studs that there comes a time when a family does not want to run them any more and they do not continue.
''We have 24 horses in the stud, of which three are stallions, and there are only 19 registered Suffolk stallions at the moment. A lot of the stallions are unusable because of where they are geographically - owners of mares in Suffolk are not likely to want to travel to Scotland for a stallion.
''These animals are difficult to breed, time consuming and need three people under health and safety when a mare is being covered by a stallion.''
Robyn Greenblatt, East of England regional manager for the HLF, said: ''The HLF is fully committed to East Anglia, but in this case the sustainability issue was key and if we supported something that was unsustainable that could do more damage in the long term to the breed.
''It is a new project and as our criteria points out, new visitor centres tend to be a lower priority because of the risk involved but that is not to say we do not do new visitors centres, i.e. Sutton Hoo which we are very proud of.''