A FEAR that an extension to the Dorset History Centre’s storage capacity might have to be dropped has been averted – although its future is still far from certain.

Dorset Council had said it was unable to finance the required 40 per cent share of the capital costs – but the Lottery Heritage Fund has now said it is prepared to look at a lower share, provided extra money can be raised from other sources.

Archives manager Sam Johnston say the indication from the Fund means that talks about the bid can now resume in the coming months.

If successful the funding is likely to be needed in the 2026-27 financial year.

A previous application for funding in 2017 was rejected.

If the new application is agreed the centre, which serves the whole county, could add a two-storey building on the existing car park to the rear of the site, although other ideas will also be investigated.

The Bridport Road centre was built in 1991 with an anticipated 25-year storage space although the repositories are now approaching capacity with little remaining space and archive material still coming in.

Initial costings had put the new build at around £3million, but inflation and material shortages since then will have added significantly to the estimate.

Extra documents and artefacts from combining local councils in 2019 to create Dorset Council and the Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole unitary authorities have added to the need for extra storage.

If the planned expansion at Dorchester can be funded it would provide 25-30 years’ space but will still need match funding, possibly from charitable trusts and foundations, to be combined with a public appeal.

Mr Johnston told a joint archives board meeting: “This is very good news as far as the service is concerned and gives us the ability to move forward and address the pressurised storage situation we face.”

The meeting heard that the centre has recently reopened to the public after a two-week closure, dubbed ‘collections weeks’ where staff and volunteers took the time to tackle a backlog of donated archive material.

Mr Johnston said the experiment was so successful it was now likely to become an annual winter event. He praised volunteers who, between them, had put in almost 250 hours during the period to assist staff in sorting and auditing 1,750 boxes of material.