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South Bank cuts controversial commercial developments

The South Bank Centre (SBC) is planning to slash the volume of proposed development on its Jubilee Gardens and Hungerford car park sites.

Executives at the arts centre are in talks with the developers of the neighbouring Shell Centre to transfer the planned accommodation for a five-screen National Film Theatre (NFT) and an eight- to 10-storey office building into the Shell Centre.

The news comes despite last week's presentation of a final masterplan with the NFT and office block still on the SBC site.

'We want to minimise our development on Hungerford Car Park, ' said SBC commercial director Mike McCart.He described the discussions with Shell building developer Lend Lease as 'delicate', but confirmed that both elements are being considered for a move.

The move follows local opposition to the scheme and warnings from the London Borough of Lambeth that the scheme may hit trouble because commercial developments on this site do not tally with its planning policy.

A source in Lambeth's planning department told the AJthat there could be conflict because the proposed site is protected metropolitan open land while SBC's proposal is for office uses.

Leaders of the Waterloo Community Development Group oppose building the cinemas and offices on the SBC site because it means that Jubilee Gardens will effectively become a roof garden on top of three storeys of arts and leisure development.

'We know that this [reducing the commercial uses on the site] will speed up the process of consent and so the process of development, 'McCart said.

News of the discussions has also revealed major tensions between the partners in the project to redevelop the UK's largest arts centre.Neither the British Film Institute, which will occupy and run the NFT, nor masterplanner Rick Mather knew about the possible changes to their plan.

'The BFI is not going in the Shell Centre, ' said BFI capital projects director Ian Temple. 'As far as we are concerned the only elements which could move are the commercial elements - the multiplex cinema, supporting retail and catering.'

'The BFI is probably just expressing a preference, ' McCart responded.

'I didn't know they are in discussions, ' Mather said this week. 'I don't think it's acceptable because the BFI wants to be part of the cultural centre.'

The talks were kept quiet as Mather presented his final masterplan for the site last week. In his plans both elements are to be built on SBC land on an expanded Jubilee Gardens site, with the NFT underneath a new raised park.

McCart said that even if the NFT were moved, the park would still have to be raised up.

'We are hoping to clarify the disposition of certain elements before the architect is appointed in January or February, 'McCart said.

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