Southbank Centre Redevelopment in Jeopardy as Planning Application is put on hold

Posted on 5 February, 2014 by Neil Bird

Board face ‘massive challenge’ without commercial element concedes chairman

The long-running Southbank Centre redevelopment saga took another – possibly final – twist today, when the arts venue announced it was putting its planning application on hold.


The application was scheduled to be heard this month but the board has now given interested parties three months to come up with ideas of how to proceed.  The decision follows Boris Johnson’s recent declaration that he would not support the closure of the space currently used by skateboarders.

The board considers the relocation of the undercroft skateboarding park as essential to the £120m scheme, as the resulting commercial development will help to fund the controversial proposal.

Last month Mr Johnson, who will have the final say on the project, stated that he supports the redevelopment but not if it involves the loss of the undercroft which he described as “part of the cultural fabric of London.”

This morning Southbank chairman Rick Haythornwaite conceded that the mayor’s intervention had been a “big setback” to the redevelopment and that the board had considered abandoning the plan completely.

“The case for closing the project down right now is compelling but we feel we owe a last ditch revival attempt to the many people that have supported us over the past four years of planning, not least Arts Council England,” he said.

He now wants to hear proposals of how the scheme might go ahead without the commercial element, which would have seen the undercroft transformed by restaurants and cafés.

Mr Haythornwaite admits that this will be a “massive challenge” and, as yet, the board have no idea how to proceed.

“It is not as if we haven’t already explored numerous options,” he said. “Our battle has never been with the skateboarders, whom we have welcomed and guaranteed a future on our site.

“The battle has always been against the economics of bringing a set of crumbling and inefficient buildings into the 21st century, in the context of declining public funding.”

The challenge facing the board now is how to achieve this without the income stream the commercial redevelopment of the undercroft would have guaranteed.

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