Livingstone backs £300m London convention centre

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The Independent Online

Proposals for a £300m international convention centre in London's West End with a seating capacity of up to 5,000 received the backing of Ken Livingstone yesterday.

An independent commission set up by the London Mayor concluded that a new purpose-built venue to attract business tourists to the capital was "feasible, justified, necessary and overdue".

The commission, funded by the London Development Agency and chaired by Gerry Acher, the deputy chairman of Camelot, estimated that a new centre would create at least 5,500 jobs and boost the economy by £400m a year. Ithopes to identify one or two preferred sites in central London and draw up funding proposals in the next six to nine months. If the centre gets the go-ahead, it could be built in time for the London Olympics in 2012.

According to the commission, Paris is four times more successful than London in attracting international conferences because it has two dedicated venues - the Palais de Congrès, a 10-minute walk from the Arc de Triomphe, and a convention centre under the Louvre.

London has only one convention centre - the QEII in Westminster, which can accommodate a maximum of only 800 people in one room. The ExCeL centre in Docklands can house 1,500 delegates under one roof but it is primarily designed as an exhibition centre, the commission said.

The new centre would cost £250m to £350m, depending on the site chosen, and could generate profits of £30m a year once fully operational. It would need to be funded through a public-private partnership.