It will allow the Tate to create a collection comparable in grandeur to the Museum of Modern Art and the Guggenheim Museum, both in New York, and the Musee Nationale d'Art Moderne in the Pompidou Centre in Paris.
The scheme, to cost a total of pounds 106m, has grown out of the gallery's increasing inability to show its major works.
Since 1950 its 20th century art collection has more than doubled in size - it now numbers 4,500 paintings and sculptures - but its main building at Millbank has only increased in area by one-fifth. At present, less than 15 per cent of the modern collection can be displayed.
Pressure on the gallery has been increased by the soaring attendance figures, which have more than doubled during the past decade to 2.3 million this year. Last year, for the first time in the gallery's history, visitors were refused entry because of overcrowding.
The aim of the new Tate, to be situated in the old Bankside power station on the south bank of the Thames, is to take up the story of art from where the National Gallery collection finishes - at the end of the 19th century.
While the Tate at Millbank will continue to show British art from the Renaissance to the present day, the Bankside Tate will present 20th century art in a more international context.
The predicted 3 million visitors a year will be able to enjoy work by artists including Picasso, Dali, Rodin, Giacometti, Freud and Andy Warhol in addition to sculpture courts, gardens, and an urban park.
But Nicholas Serota, the director of the Tate, was quick to emphasise that the new gallery would not just benefit the capital, saying that 40 per cent of British visitors were expected to come from outside London.
He also stressed that the scheme was estimated to create 650 jobs in the local Southwark area, which suffers from 25 per cent unemployment.
Six other millennium grants were also announced yesterday. The Rochdale Canal Trust won up to pounds 11m to restore 32 miles of the Rochdale Canal from Manchester to Halifax, while the Woodland Trust was given up to pounds 6.5m to help create 200 community woodlands in England and Wales.
The Black Country will also develop 1,000 hectares of woodland sites in urban areas of the West Midlands following a grant of pounds 4.2m to the Black Country Environmental Partnership, while Orkney Islands Council won up to pounds 3.7m to provide a community centre. A grant of up to pounds 7.4m went to National Museums of Scotland to present Scottish cultural resources on CD-Rom. The final grant was for pounds 588,000 to the Thames Salmon Trust to boost salmon stocks in the Thames.
A new development in Millennium Commission policy emerged last night. Virginia Bottomley, Secretary of State for National Heritage, announced grants would in future also go to individuals "to develop their potential" in a way that offered community benefit.
Church, Scout and Guide groups and educational trusts will be consulted on how such grants should be applied, but possibilities include youth, community and "mentoring" schemes.
A permanent reserve fund of up to pounds 100m will be set up to provide income to fund the awards to individuals after the commission itself is wound up at the end of 2000.Reuse content