A WORLD-FAMOUS tourist site’s future is under threat after coronavirus halted its 50th anniversary expansion plans.

The Vindolanda Trust, which runs the Roman fort near Bardon Mill and the Roman Army Museum, near Greenhead was due to open its brand new archaeological centre last week, but the museum closed its doors last month after the Government ordered all non-essential businesses to close down.

And now CEO Dr Andrew Birley has warned that the future of the trust was uncertain.

“Coronavirus is affecting us massively,”Andrew said. “This is the time of year when we set out our charitable aims and objectives for the trust and that has been stopped.

“We’re losing hundreds and thousands of pounds especially with Easter coming up.”

The virus has also had an impact on the Vindolanda Trust’s research and operational work. Around 90 per cent of staff have been placed on furlough leave, with the small minority left to maintain the site, provide security and keep the business operating.

The decision wasn’t taken lightly, but Andrew insisted it had been done to ensure the business was still operational by the end of the year.

“It has been really hard, but it’s been really pleasing to see people respect that,” he added.

“When you have a situation like this you have that extra level of worry. We’re going to have a very tough year. The way it’s going it could take a couple of years until we get to the other side completely.

“Should we survive this, the point when we start operating again could be dangerous because we don’t know what situation we will be operating in.”

The new £300,000 excavation centre was set to be used as a classroom for educational visits, a base for archaeological workshops and post-excavation research.

However, the unit known as the Arc II, remains unfinished after all building and maintenance work was halted.

But Andrew hoped to be able to open the museum again to some extent this summer. “Any business that’s tourism-related is suffering and we owe it to them to keep it going,” he added.

“We also rely on lots of volunteers from around the world, and it’s still unknown when they will be able to visit.”

A large number of events and exhibitions at the museum have been cancelled, and rescheduled for 2021, as a result of the coronavirus crisis.

The trust has launched a survival appeal to help keep it operating behind the scenes until it can re-open. Information can be found at: www.https://www.vindolanda.com