South Bank redevelopment to include pavement cafes: Chief executive supports the Independent's campaign for more welcoming cities

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The Independent Online
THE South Bank Centre in London will insist on Parisian-style pavement cafes in its new multi-million pound development.

Nicholas Snowman, the centre's chief executive, said yesterday that it was important the redevelopment included ideas such as those in the Independent's campaign for more continental-style pavement cafes and an end to staff car parking on sites of important cultural interest, particularly bearing in mind that the Waterloo terminal to the Channel tunnel is on the centre's doorstep.

The centre, which includes the Royal Festival and Queen Elizabeth halls and the Hayward art gallery, will next week receive submissions from a shortlist of architects to redevelop the complex, a scheme likely to include building a new performance venue, a new ground level entrance for the Hayward Gallery and most importantly the possible demolition of the unloved and unwelcoming concrete walkways.

Mr Snowman, who previously worked at the Pompidou Centre in Paris, said: 'I am delighted that the Independent is championing a campaign to make our cultural centres and our cities more welcoming. In Paris, the Pompidou Centre offers a welcoming piazza, tempting passers-by as well as dedicated enthusiasts to come in and see what's on offer . . . I would like to see our redevelopment be just as welcoming, with cafes and public art and sculpture. We will also want to ensure that spaces outside the centre, which can be used for visitors and tourists to stroll around, are not used for staff car parking.'

Letters from readers continue to support the two- pronged Independent campaign to free these cultural spaces from cars, and to enliven our cities with more pavement cafes.

Neil Thompson, a landscape architect from London, says he finds 'the greatest frustration in persuading private and corporate sector clients to invest in good open space design, particularly where it benefits the general public'. He recommends rate relief for businesses using town centre frontage spaces for pedestrian uses such as cafes, for those removing areas of unsightly private parking; as well as tax relief for investing in street improvements (tree planting, paving, sculpture, seating) in public areas close to their own premises.

Chris Sladen, from Ealing, west London, points out that the heart of the Treasury building in Whitehall is occupied by a circular courtyard. He writes: 'From the three storeys of Lutyens-designed offices around it, important chaps in the Treasury can look down on the cars parked there by even more important chaps. Double gates open on to Parliament Square. It would take minimal imagination and minimal cash to transform the courtyard into a haven for tourists visiting the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey.'

But Oliver Owen, of Hove in East Sussex, was ambivalent about the campaign in relation to the forecourts of cultural spaces: 'You seem determined to punk-romanticise, to cultivate the dark- glasses poseurs, who go there to be seen, not to sup or watch. The problem of parked cars is a different matter.'

The National Theatre is to be listed as a building of special architectural interest. Peter Brooke, Secretary of State for National Heritage, said yesterday that the theatre was being graded in recognition of its 'outstanding architectural quality'.

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