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Kate Hoey slams Mather's new South Bank masterplan

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Labour MP for Vauxhall Kate Hoey last week called for major changes to Rick Mather's masterplan for the South Bank Centre.

The sports minister and local MP for the arts centre warned that the design for a 1.5ha park on top of a three-storey building at Jubilee Gardens is unacceptable.

'Personally, I think it's much too crowded with buildings on the park and something is going to have to be done about it. There's too much concrete,' she told the AJ.

Hoey's reaction came after the architect presented his draft masterplan to a local residents meeting at the start of a final two-month public consultation period.

As well as the new park, Mather's masterplan proposes to refurbish the 1960s buildings such as the Hayward Gallery and build a new £30 million centre for the British Film Institute (AJ 17.2.00).

Her views could cause a split with her boss at the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, Chris Smith, who supports the Mather plan.

Some residents are angry that the centre's chiefs decided to finance the changes by designing in 50,000m 2of new commercial space.

The South Bank Centre has decided to pepper the site with cafe and restaurant premises as well as income-generating commercial property development, including two 10-storey blocks for a hotel, an e-commerce business centre and luxury housing. The decision was taken after only £37.5 million was made available from government and lottery funding, a figure which looks unlikely to match even half the project cost.

'We want a park which will see trees grow for 500 years. But this is not a park, it's a forecourt to a developer's dream,' said Emma Winkley of the Waterloo Community Development Group.

Another resident told Mather: 'The sloping design for the park is a function of funding problems and I thought we'd given up exchanging open space for funds in London.'

'It's a developer's design, not an arts centre, and certainly not a community centre,' another said.

A minority of speakers from the floor backed Mather's plans. Hoey, chairing the meeting, called for people to avoid a knee-jerk reaction and consider the plans more closely when they went on display in the Royal Festival Hall Foyer.

South Bank Centre chairman Elliott Bernerd tried to play down the level of commercial involvement and refused to specify how much money commercial activities will have to raise. The South Bank Centre is a charity and will not be permitted to make profit from the development.

Details of an international architectural competition for the new buildings on the site will be issued in April.

Bernerd said that Mather is likely to sit on the selection committee.

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