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£50 million offer for empty Dome site would be rejected

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Millennium Dome land owner English Partnerships has rejected proposals to tear down the struggling Greenwich attraction at the end of the year to boost the site's sale value by £50 million.

The director of the contest to take over the Dome, John Walker, said that bidding consortia would not be allowed to remove the Richard Rogers Partnership-designed tent.

His comments came after a report in the Financial Times this week that one consortium would pay an extra £50 million to English Partnerships if it could demolish the Dome to make way for offices and flats. 'We are keeping the Dome structure and we've no idea if the site would be worth more if it were removed. We haven't asked for offers yet,' Walker said.

Six consortia are bidding for the site with proposals ranging from a sports complex to a permanent high-tech trade fair. But the bids are not fixed and this week, Charlton Athletic Football Club backed out of plans to relocate from the Valley to a new stadium next to the Dome as part of the Sports Dome 2001 bid.

The possibility of extra cash for an empty site emerged as the Millennium Commission made a £60 million loan available to the New Millennium Experience Company. The nmec has already spent £758 million on the construction and budgeted running costs of the troubled Dome for this year.

A spokesman for the nmec insisted that it would be able to pay back the additional lottery funds from the increase in visitor numbers which is expected in the summer. The Dome needs 12 million visitors over the year to start making a profit. 'People are buying their tickets closer to their visit than we anticipated and this has caused a cashflow problem,' the nmec spokesman said.

The nmec rejected the idea of keeping the Millennium Dome open longer than a year in order to balance the books.

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