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Labour's new Greenwich solution

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NEWS

The government is plotting to find a long-lasting cure for its Dome and Greenwich Peninsula headaches by creating an Urban Regeneration Company for the area, led by the man who brought the 2002 Commonwealth Games to Manchester.

But the URC chairman-in-waiting, Sir Bob Scott, told the AJ this week that he is keen to reject the path trodden by other URCs which Labour created on the advice of Lord Rogers'Urban Task Force.He wants to retain but 're-evaluate' Rogers' own Greenwich masterplan rather than launch a competition to find a new one for the 121ha site.

Scott has met with officials from English Partnerships, Greenwich Borough Council and other players to discuss transforming the current 'large and shapeless' Greenwich Peninsula Partnership into a streamlined urban regeneration company to push forward better coordinated and funded developments for the area.

And now he is set to meet with representatives from central government, the Greater London Authority, London Development Agency, Transport for London and others to reach a 'consensus' on the URC in a fortnight's time. But he warned that the government's post-election reorganisation and deliberation over what to do with the Dome was pushing back the timetable over the new independent company. 'The government is going through the most comprehensive restructuring there's been for many years', he said. 'The Dome sets the pace for the peninsula in many ways and there's a real desire to see it resolved. But there's a lot of difficult relationships which have to be sorted out.'

EP said it has not set a deadline for any decision on the Dome and is still 'market-testing' more than 100 ideas for its future with help from consultants Jones Lang La Salle, City law firm Berwin Leighton Paisner and RRP on architectural matters.Those ideas include Marks Barfield's £2 billion scheme for up to 20 of its 50-storey 'Sky Tower' buildings - first revealed six weeks ago (AJ 24.5.01).

Last week it emerged that the Dome element of that proposal could become home to a London version of Tim Smit's Eden project. RRP said it approved of a 'public' reuse of the Dome but said the Marks Barfield idea of 'slicing the roof off ' and replacing it with a transparent membrane was 'a major reconfiguring which would require a redesign'.

A URC for the peninsula 'has to offer added value', said Scott. 'There's no point in just having another tier.We have to come in on the basis that all the major players feel this is a helpful way forward.' He wants the company to include 10-12 board members plucked from 'very serious players' including landowners, transport experts and local interest groups, but expects an announcement about the Dome to come first, after Parliament's summer recess.

Greenwich would be Britain's seventh, but highestprofile, URC after Sheffield One, New East Manchester, Corby, Leicester, Sunderland and the first of the EP- and local authority-supported outfits, Liverpool Vision. The government plans a total of 12 URCs across the UK during the next three years, with two of those expected this summer.

Sir Bob Scott, 57, has long been associated with Manchester rather than London, most recently as chairman of the committee which won the bid to host the Commonwealth Games in 2002.He was also chairman of the Manchester Olympic Bid Committee for the 1996 and 2000 games.

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