A DECISION to approve a grant and loan to support a major development project in Dorchester has been deferred for a second time.

The West Dorset District Council executive committee has put back the decision to approve a £150,000 grant and a £475,000 loan to the Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society for its ambitious project for Dorset County Museum.

Although the council remain supportive of the project, members are cautious and want to ensure all the information needed is provided before committing to the funding.

The museum is owned and operated by the Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society.

Since 2010, visitor numbers have doubled and therefore the society has embarked on a project to maximise the potential of the range of historic buildings that it occupies between High West Street and Colliton Street in Dorchester.

Entitled ‘Tomorrow’s Museum for Dorset’, the development aims to include new galleries, state-of-the-art storage facilities, a new learning centre and a new shop and café.

It is estimated to cost £13.2million. It was awarded a £9.9million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund which is conditional on the society securing pledges for 90 per cent of the remaining £3.3million from other sources by May 2017.

Currently the society is actively engaged in a major fundraising campaign and is seeking grants from a range of private trusts, foundations and high-net-worth individuals.

To date, the project has secured pledges totalling more than £1.3million.

In addition, the project received £25,000 from Dorchester Town Council and £100,000 from Dorset County Council.

The money would be from the council’s corporate projects reserves. The loan is to cover any revenue deficits during the disruption of the build period.

Dr Jon Murden, director at Dorset County Museum met with Cllr Alford after the meeting to discuss the deferment.

He said: “It was clear from this discussion that WDDC are keen to support the museum in this project, and that this deferment is to do with compliance with WDDC’s internal procedures.

"The information requested by WDDC was supplied to them by the museum as requested in full in February, but I understand WDDC was unable to complete its due diligence process in time for yesterday’s meeting.

"We completely appreciate why this was necessary and that WDDC’s procedures need to be completed properly. Both the museum and WDDC want to see this project happen.”

Dr Murden has been invited to WDDC’s next executive meeting in April to answer any questions that may arise.

The council has pledged £134,000 for the museum’s visual arts and performance area.