Supplementary memorandum submitted by
the South Bank Centre
Letter to Chairman of the Committee from
Mr Tom Franklin, Leader of London Borough of Lambeth Centre
We are writing to you concerning the Royal Festival
Hall (RFH) refurbishment project and the critical delay in dealing
with this, as well as our concurrent application for the RFH extension
In July 1999 the Heritage Lottery Fund made
an in-principle award of £12.5 million towards the RFH refurbishment.
In August 2001 the Arts Council made an in-principle award of
£20 million. The Heritage Lottery Fund will consider increasing
their award to £20 million in the summer. On 3 May 2001 the
RFH celebrated it's 50th birthday generating a great national
outpouring of affection for a much loved friend. There were 90
articles and features in the national, regional and local press
and magazines, including a special 16-page supplement in the Evening
Standard, 30 programmes on the radio and 16 television programmes
including a two hour special on BBC 2.
Following the 50th birthday celebrations we
launched a major fundraising campaign and to date over 6,000 ticket
buyers have pledged £1 million towards the refurbishment
programme. With this, and the offer from the two lottery bodies,
we have 75 per cent of the funding in place.
You can imagine therefore, our frustration at
the continued, and in our view unreasonable delays in the decision
about the planning application submitted in April 2000 initially
(with full applications in July 2000for the Extension Buildingand
September 2000for the Foyers Project.)
We have maintained close and constant contact
with your planning officers. The Foyers Project was due to be
heard by Committee on 27 November, but the papers were lost between
the planning department and the Planning Committee Clerk. It was
therefore deferred to 11 December 2001. After three and half hours
of listening to domestic applications from garages to double glazing,
we were told that after 20 months the Planning Committee needed
a site visit.
This visit, on the 12 January, was organised
in detailed consultation with your planning officers. Our understanding
was that the purpose of the visit was for members of the Planning
Committee to familiarise themselves with the physical changes
proposed in both applications and to understand the linkage between
the two and the implications of considering them separately.
The meeting and the visit were requested and
supposed to be controlled by the Planning Committee. The Chairman
made that clear at the outset. However, despite her reminder to
everyone present that the site visit was not a rehearsal for the
committee meeting, the presentations and tour were hi-jacked by
the Waterloo Community Development Group (WCDG) representatives
and other individuals. As the applicant we were prevented from
setting out our proposals calmly, clearly and cohesively. Indeed
we were intimidated throughout the tour. Individual members of
the Planning Committee were aggressively lobbied by WCDG, which
meant that not all the members were able to listen to SBC's explanation
of the proposals properly. There were also constant interjections
of irrelevant and wilfully misleading detail. We are therefore
not at all convinced that the members of the Planning Committee
are clear about our proposals, the public benefits which will
result from their adoption, or the many ways in which we have
modified the applications to address objectors' concerns.
SBC is now in two minds. On the one hand it
welcomes the special Planning Committee in March, as an opportunity
for the Committee to scrutinise fully the two projects. On the
other hand, however, our 20 month experience with the planning
department and the shambolic site visit give us little confidence
that the Council will succeed in managing the meeting in such
a way as to arrive at any reasonable conclusion. We greatly fear
that it may turn out to be yet another missed opportunity leading
to further delay.
You should know that we have made representations
to the Minister for London and the Mayor about our experience
and have expressed our concern about the Council's ability to
manage the process for considering complex planning applications
of national importance.
We would like to meet you and Chief Executive
Faith Boardman as a matter of urgency to discuss the following
First, we would like to summarise in a short
document the principal proposals and benefits of the two applications,
setting out clearly the linkage between them, the implications
of dealing with them separately and the modifications we have
made to address concerns. We would also want to identify what
we regard as the key planning issues before the Council.
Second, we would like to hear how the Council
proposes to manage the two RFH planning applications, and in particular
the special Planning Committee meeting now scheduled for 5 March.
We would also like to hear how you propose to manage the process
for considering our further planning in relation to the rest of
the site, which we will be lodging with the Council early next
Finally, in November Mike McCart suggested to
Cllr Kirsty McHugh that we would very much welcome a senior representative
from Lambeth Council (either officer or member) to join our Board
of Governors at SBC. We believed that this would help foster a
better relationship and understanding between the two organisations.
This is especially important given that Lambeth residents make
over 100,000 visits to RFH foyers each year, that 30,000 ticket
buyers come from the borough and that 50 per cent of our arts
education programmethe largest in the countryis
devoted to Lambeth schools.
24 January 2002