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Tate moves to ease local fears over extension plans for St Ives gallery

The Tate was issuing assurances this week that it would not pursue plans to extend its gallery in St Ives against the will of the town's residents.

Rumours have been rife in the Cornish seaside town that the Tate - along with the owners of the gallery's building, Cornwall County Council - were planning to forcibly remove the elderly inhabitants of a neighbouring residential block.

But this week the Tate was stressing that plans were in their earliest stages and 'no one will be moved against their will'.

The rumours are embarrassing for the gallery, whose director Nicholas Serota has been waging a high-profile battle of its own - against plans by Philip Gumuchdjian for a 20-storey tower on a site neighbouring Tate Modern.

The popularity of the Evans & Shalev-designed St Ives Tate gallery has exceeded expectations since its creation 10 years ago. Designed to accommodate 25,000 visitors a year, now 70,000 pass through its doors annually.

A spokesperson for the Tate said the museum had been phenomenally successful and now wanted to address the challenge that that success posed. But she insisted that development would only go ahead if consultations demonstrate local people are in favour.

And she added that Penwith Housing Association, which owns the neighbouring sheltered housing block, had been sounding out residents for their views on relocation, with offers of financial compensation.

Reports in the local press claiming the majority of residents of Meadow Flats would resist offers to move were strongly denied by the gallery, which said it believed only one of the eight residents had shown resistance.

However, the mayor of St Ives, Harry Isaacs, told the AJ he was extremely concerned about the reports and had demanded a meeting with the council for a full explanation.

Evans & Shalev refused to comment on whether it hoped to be involved with the extension.

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