Richard Rogers is being kept guessing over the future of his sweeping glass canopy for the South Bank while the Arts Council and Heritage Department dither and pass the buck over costs.
An Arts Council spokeswoman said that the scheme was essential and visionary. But its need for between £70-75 million over three years would rule out financing any other project. Some £50 million of lottery cash has been allocated leaving a shortfall of at least £20 million.In the four years the project has been in the pipeline, it has already notched up £2 million in feasibility studies. The total cost is estimated to be around £130 million.
'We have taken our case to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport and asked for upfront advice on the money to fund this project, and others,' said a spokeswoman. 'We have been told to put our proposals in writing.'
A Heritage Department spokesman said: 'We are waiting for the Arts Council deliberations. We are completely agnostic until we have their proposals before us. That process by which we give our consent cannot begin until we have them.'
The South Bank Centre said that the Arts Council had given it a 'resounding endorsement which is much further than we have been before', but there is still an impasse.
'It has acknowledged the amount required to do the scheme but the next stage will inevitably involve delay,' a spokeswoman said. 'There is an anxiety about how that might be resolved.' She would not confirm or deny rumours that board members had threatened to resign if the scheme were ditched.
The scheme has already been altered to save £20 million by trimming all- round specifications and sacrificing an auditorium. The South Bank Centre said it would be crucial to do the work quickly in one major building swoop to keep an even tighter lid on the costs.