"Big setback" for Festival Wing, says Southbank Centre chair

The planning application for the £100m Festival Wing at London's Southbank Centre has been withheld, according to the venue's board.

How the Southbank Centre could look after the redevelopment
How the Southbank Centre could look after the redevelopment

It comes following the Mayor of London Boris Johnson’s statement published on 15 January, in which he said he would not support the proposals if they involved the loss of the current space used by skateboarders in the Queen Elizabeth Hall undercroft.

Southbank Centre announced today (5 February) it is now in search of an alternative funding model to avoid moving the skateboarding facility, and would be putting its planning application on hold for three months.

The multi-million pound redevelopment of the Festival Wing, which includes the Queen Elizabeth Hall, Purcell Room and Hayward Gallery complex, is set to include a mix of new spaces and refurbishments.

Rick Haythornthwaite, chairman of the Southbank Centre, said: "This is a big setback to a scheme which would serve millions if completed. 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 the Arts Council England.

"Boris Johnson and Lambeth Council have both made clear that they wish to see the scheme proceed and we look forward to hearing their ideas. But we are under no illusions. We have been handed a massive challenge and we don’t yet see how we will make it work – it is not as if we haven’t already explored numerous options."

He added the venue’s battle has never been with the skateboarders, but rather "the economics of bringing a set of crumbling and inefficient buildings into the 21st century, in the context of declining public funding".

Haythornthwaite said: "If we are to have any chance of finding new answers then we need, over the next three months, the help of everyone with an interest in putting the final touches to a world class South Bank cultural quarter. If we all fail to find a solution, the buildings problems do not go away.

"But the needs of the new people attracted by our success over recent years would have to wait to be met until a yet more radical solution to this hitherto intractable problem emerges."

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