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Bidders say government can expect big loss on Dome sale

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The government can only expect to net between £50 million and £150 million on the sale of the Millennium Dome and its surrounding land, private sector bidders said last week.

Speaking at the launch of a public consultation on their plans for the future of the £758 million Dome, one bidder said that it planned to spend more than £1 billion on transforming the 30ha site, but that the government could expect only around one-tenth of this investment.

Each of the bidders plans to keep the Richard Rogers Partnership structure and Dome minister Lord Falconer pledged to fight for its retention.

'The international interest in the sale of the Dome shows that it has a long-term future,' he said. But when pressed on the need to achieve the best return on the government's investment, he admitted that ministers will 'look at and consider every financial bid', raising fears that the Dome could still be sold for demolition. Some developers believe the site is worth around £50 million more if the Dome is demolished.

The launch of the consultation also revealed more detail of the bidders' plans, which include work by architects such as Terry Farrell & Partners, Lifschutz Davidson and landscape architect Derek Lovejoy Partnership.

Greenwich Media World aims to invest £650 million in 16 new buildings, some up to 95m tall, and wants to integrate its plans with a scheme being designed by Terry Farrell & Partners on the peninsula. 'We've been in talks with [Farrell] about the possibility of integrating the architecture on the sites and we are planning competitions for the new buildings,' a spokesman for the McAlpine-backed consortium said. The consortium plans to keep zones such as the Journey Zone and Talk Zone, but will introduce five new zones to be managed by Tussauds Group.

hok + Lobb is working on designs for Meridian City, a business centre based on the lifecycle of business, with start-ups located at the centre and mature businesses at the perimeter. The concept will include three hotels with a total of 2400 bedrooms.

Lord Falconer, deputy prime minister John Prescott, secretary of state for culture, media and sport Chris Smith, and regeneration minister Hilary Armstrong will be on the panel selecting a winner later this summer. But Falconer said the Dome could stay open for a further six months if more gate receipts are needed to cover costs - as long as 'demand for people to come was so great that it would seem unfair to close it.' March's visitor's numbers fell, to 556,308, 13,000 less than in February.

The consultation period runs until 24 April and plans are available at www.domelegacy.co.uk

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