Royal Mail has decided not to fund part of the BPMA's move to Swindon.

The trustees of the Museum have therefore decided they cannot continue with the planned move, says the BPMA's statement. (Full text below). They are now looking at the feasibility of a London site.

Royal Mail was the principal funder for the scheme, which was also partially funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. The museum had hoped to start raising money from public donations shortly. The total value of the scheme was £17 million.

'It's left us with a funding hole,' said Project Manager, Tim Ellison, adding that the trustees of the Museum had 'no choice but to abort the plans'.

The new home would have provided 4,500 sq metres of space, including a substantial gallery to display items, a new archive and possible 'income streams' such as meeting rooms and gallery space.

The current search room is only big enough for small displays, while the purported new venue would have enabled the museum to display substantial parts of its holdings.

The BPMA had been given £117,000 in Heritage Lottery Fund money for development, which it had ring-fenced and will now pay back. The scheme had been in development since September 2008.

Royal Mail had previously also removed funding for a planned site at the Woolwich Arsenal.

The national philatelic collections have not had a proper museum home since the closure of the National Postal Museum in 1998.

Fundraising efforts will continue. The Chairman of the Friends of the BPMA, Brian Sole said: 'We're willing to help as much as we possibly can.' Promotional material for this year's subscriptions and Stampex had to be changed at short notice to remove references to Swindon. He added: 'I think it's been quite a shock.'

The BPMA's official statement:

After undertaking extensive feasibility work, the Trustees of The British Postal Museum & Archive (BPMA) have decided not to continue with plans to develop a new base in Swindon, Wiltshire.
 
The decision comes despite the BPMA receiving an HLF Round One pass for the project early last year and is in response to significant changes to funding expectations, particularly from corporate supporters, during the past six months. Like other cultural organisations, the BPMA attributes difficulties in meeting fundraising targets to the current challenging economic climate.
 
The BPMA retains its commitment to securing an accessible future home, and its staff will continue working to achieve the best possible outcome for the BPMA and its unique collections.
 
The BPMA also continues to work with communities in Swindon, where it will be staging an exhibition of iconic post office photographs in the autumn.
  
Notes for editors:
 
1. The British Postal Museum & Archive (BPMA) is the leading resource for all aspects of British postal history. It is a combined museum and archive, bringing together The Royal Mail Archive and a Museum Store. With collections ranging from staff records to stamps, poster design to photography and from transport to telegrams, it cares for the visual, written and physical records from over 400 years of innovation and service, illuminating the fascinating story of British communications. Records in The Royal Mail Archive are Designated as being of outstanding national importance. For more information see www.postalheritage.org.uk .

2. The BPMA and Swindon

The British Postal Museum & Archive’s proposed relocation to the Chain Testing Works in Swindon was planned to take place in 2014.

3. The Future of the BPMA
One of The BPMA’s major objectives is to restore physical access to its museum collection, improve access to the archive and to establish a new combined home for its work and collections.
 
We need this because:
For the Archive Collection – The current storage facilities are far from ideal. They are stored in the underground former boiler room at Royal Mail’s Mount Pleasant Mail Centre. This facility, which is already over capacity, is adjacent to the River Fleet and has aging plant and equipment, which means environmental conditions cannot be sustained in the future.
 
For the Museum Collection – There is a pressing need to properly house the BPMA Museum collection. It is not currently comprehensively accessible to the public and there is no main gallery space for exhibitions or permanent displays. The Museum Store in Debden, Essex, which houses larger objects such as vehicles and pillar boxes, is only open on selected days each year.
 
For Education and Learning Capacity – The BPMA currently has very limited capacity to host educational access to its collections for schools, colleges and universities. A new home will allow schools to use the collections as a resource for inspiring and supporting learning across many areas of the curriculum.


The current search room is too small for major displays