Parliament: Agency attacked over Dome

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The Independent Online
THE GOVERNMENT agency that owns the land on which the pounds 758m Millennium Dome is built was criticised yesterday by MPs for appearing "too open-minded" about the Dome's future use.

Executives of the regeneration agency English Partnerships told the Commons Culture Committee nobody had devised a complete package for the Dome after it closes to the public at the end of 2000. They added that a number of future uses were being considered but nothing had been decided.

The committee chairman, Gerald Kaufman, told the chief executive of English Partnerships, Paula Hay-Plumb: "I am very concerned about your telling me how open-minded you are. I fear the building will be a vacant shell."

She replied: "I believe it will be wrong to interpret our open-mindedness as a lack of concern. We are absolutely committed to ensuring that future use of the Dome fits in with the long-term regeneration of the Greenwich Peninsula."

English Partnerships projects director, David Shelton, said that among potential uses for the Dome were leisure, sports, conventions and conferences. It could be kept as an exhibition space or used as the centre of a development project. He said: "Having the Dome as a retail site would not be appropriate, nor would it be appropriate to use it for pop concerts twice a week or for anything too trivial." It was difficult to get credible proposals until it was demonstrated how transport links would work.

In evidence to the committee, the Docklands Forum, which embraces 500 organisations in the Docklands and Thames Gateway areas, gave the results of a questionnaire it had circulated in Greenwich. Among the options proposed for the Dome were an ecological water park, an art centre, education centre and a museum. The forum said: "It is clear that most people want it to become a cultural centre of lasting value ... not just another commercial development."