Surprise resignation throws South Bank plans into chaos

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The Independent Online

The chief executive of London's South Bank Centre announced yesterday that he is to quit, throwing its £200m renewal plan into confusion.

Karsten Witt is believed to be one of the highest-paid arts administrators in Britain, with a salary in excess of £200,000, and will move on at the beginning of next year. He will leave his dramatic proposals for improving the complex alongside the river Thames unfulfilled.

The decision was revealed late yesterday in a brief statement announcing a fundamental review of the organisation of the centre, which could give greater autonomy to each of the venues currently under Mr Witt's control.

Mr Witt, who joined two years ago, said he believed his role should no longer exist and that the centre should move towards more freedom for its flagship venues, such as the Royal Festival Hall and the Hayward Gallery.

But insiders said the move towards decentralisation seemed at odds with the vision of a revamped and unified cultural quarter along the river, including an extra concert hall and new National Film Theatre, which had been the driving ambition of Mr Witt's tenure.

One said: "He realises he's not going to get his vision through and doesn't want to have any more to do with it."

Proposals to redevelop the complex stretch back more than a decade. They include the architect Richard Rogers' rejected "wave" scheme to put a glass roof over the site.

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