Dome development plans unveiled

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Bold, multi-million pound plans to develop the Millennium Dome site after the exhibition there closes at the end of the year were announced today.

Bold, multi-million pound plans to develop the Millennium Dome site after the exhibition there closes at the end of the year were announced today.

The schemes from five competing consortia include plans to keep some of the existing zones within the £758 million Dome in Greenwich, south east London.

One consortium wants to turn the Dome into a giant sports experience while another envisages a huge business centre.

The plans went on display at three centres in London today and members of the public are being asked for their views.

The current shortlist will be shortened still further - to two or three consortia - in May, and a final decision on the winning team is expected later in the summer.

"We have five very impressive consortia and I am delighted by the response from the private sector," said Lord Falconer, the Government minister with responsibility for the Dome.

He went on: "The Dome is now a national asset and a landmark recognised around the world.

"Through this competition we will clearly secure a sustainable alternative use for the Dome so that it continues for many years to come."

The five consortia, and their plans, comprise:

Â¥ DOME EUROPE - Proposed by giant Japanese finance group Nomura, this scheme will involve investing more than £100 million in the site and will continue with the "best aspects" of the Dome. It will develop 15 acres of land around the Dome and hopes to attract 15 million visitors between 2001-04.

Â¥ GREENWICH MEDIA WORLD - £650 million is to be invested in building a new-style concert hall theatre inside the Dome, a revitalised series of pavilions around it, a new Sports City nearby and a new business district around North Greenwich tube station by the Dome. The scheme could create 18,500 new jobs within eight to 10 years. The consortium includes builders Sir Robert McAlpine and The Tussaud's Group.

Â¥ LEGACY PLC - This consortium plans to spend £130 million transforming the Dome into a world-leading community of new businesses and create up to 9,000 permanent jobs. The plans are confined just to the Dome itself and the consortium partners include entrepreneur Robert Bourne and its chairman is Sir Christopher Benson, a former chairman of the London Docklands Development Corporation and the man who drove forward the Canary Wharf expansion in Docklands.

Â¥ MERIDIAN CITY - This consortium has £1 billion plans for the area which could create more than 25,000 jobs in the Thames Gateway area by developing a giant business community in and around the Dome. This would involve building 2,400 hotel rooms, 500 residential units and a 7,500-seat convention centre.

Â¥ SPORTS DOME - A consortium including current Dome sponsors BSkyB wants to turn the Dome into "the world's greatest sports experience", featuring 50 sports, a 10,000-seater sports theatre and a soccer hall of champions. Four existing zones will be turned into sports-themed areas and eight new zones will be created.

The Dome's Millennium Experience is set to close on December 31.

Lord Falconer said today he was "quite sure" that Dome organisers the New Millennium Experience Company would reach its break-even target of 10 million admission-paying visitors this year.

The Dome and surrounding area are owned by Government regeneration agency English Partnerships which hopes to get between £50 million and £150 million for the 120-acre site.

The investment levels being offered by the consortia will be taken into account in deciding the winner.

The successful plan will also have to meet Government criteria for:

Â¥ Commercial and environmental sustainability

Â¥ Regeneration in terms of economic, physical and social benefits

Â¥ Innovation - imaginative and distinctive use of new technology

Â¥ Cultural significance - raising standards of education and training in any aspect of the creative and cultural sector

Â¥ Transport - minimum reliance on car access, maximum use of public transport.