Millennium Dome may have to move move

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The millennium dome may have to be moved from its Greenwich home in 2001 because of a split between the two organisations in charge of the project.

The New Millennium Experience Company, NMEC, which is running the year- long exhibition, wants its building to stay on the site as a possible Olympic sports stadium or as a theme park. The company is talking to both the Sports Council and the Tussaud's Group about plans to develop the dome.

But sources at English Partnerships, which owns the land, say it would prefer to see the dome moved so that other leisure facilities and parks could be put there for community use. It plans to use the exhibition car park for houses as part of a new London "urban quarter".

The difference of opinion was revealed after the minister without portfolio, Peter Mandelson, announced that the structure would have a Teflon roof instead of PVC to extend its life. There were reports that the German company which was to have made the coating would be paid up to pounds 500,000 compensation.

Last night Mr Mandelson appeared to give some backing to plans for a stadium which would be linked by a new Tube line to Wembley and which he believes could host the Olympics in 2008, although he stressed this was not government policy.

"London will be bidding for those games at some stage. We will need the sorts of facilities, the possibility for which is created on the Greenwich peninsula, if we are going to compete successfully for holding the games in the future," he said.

However, Mr Mandelson also confirmed that the dome could be moved. "We are looking at a number of options and included in those options is the possibility that the dome may go elsewhere," he said.

Sources at English Partnerships said they favoured moving the dome. "We are very much looking at this as a new quarter for London. I think our preference is that probably it goes," one official said.

Gez Sagar, spokesman for NMEC, said it was keen to see the dome stay where it was. "We would love to see it staying on the site and for another operator to come in and take it over and use it to its full potential. It's going to be an internationally famous building and it's going to be a landmark," he said.

A spokeswoman for Pearson, which owns the company that runs Madame Tussaud's, said it had been approached with a view to putting a theme park on the site. She could not say precisely who had made the contact. "They have been in touch with us saying, `Please, please are you interested?' The truth is maybe, yes. It is obviously an interesting option," she said.

A spokesman for the Sports Council said its plan could include facilities for local use, but would also provide a major stadium for international competitions. "We have already talked with Greenwich along these lines, and we are very excited to see that this idea of a long-term option is catching on. We are very keen for a sporting option to be considered," he said.

The pounds 14m roof coating will now be supplied by a New York company called Birdair. The original German coating would have cost pounds 6.1m. The dome will ast for at least 25 years, twice as long as originally planned.