Ministers to accept business park deal for Dome

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The Independent Online

A bid to convert the Millennium Dome into a hi-tech business park for digital and biotechnology companies is expected to be accepted by ministers later this week.

A bid to convert the Millennium Dome into a hi-tech business park for digital and biotechnology companies is expected to be accepted by ministers later this week.

The £120m proposal from Legacy Plc, headed by the City property entrepreneur Robert Bourne, is to be considered by a committee of ministers headed by John Prescott, the deputy prime minister, this Thursday.

The Government had been given an ultimatum by Mr Bourne, a Labour Party donor, to finalise the deal by the end of this week after he became increasingly frustrated at the slow progress of negotiations with English Partnerships, which owns the 300-acre site.

The regeneration agency, which denies the charges, was accused of objecting to the Government's determination to push through the Legacy bid without reopening the competition to find the best financial offer, and its decision to divert most of the Dome's sale proceeds to meet the Dome's debts.

But Mr Prescott, the minister in overall charge of English Partnerships, has been under mounting pressure from Tony Blair and Lord Falconer of Thoroton, the "minister for the Dome", to finish the deal to avoid another huge political embarrassment.

In October, the agency's chairman, Sir Alan Cockshaw, was forced to stand down from the board of the New Millennium Experience Company, the Dome's operators. Mr Bourne's bid was resurrected in September after the Japanese bank Nomura stunned the Government by abandoning its bid to build a £800m "urban entertainments resort" and leisure complex at the Dome, in Greenwich, south east London.

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