London looks to big-spending millennium

Survey details 160 projects to mark arrival of 21st century but says su burbs lack enthusiasm

Marianne Macdonald
Sunday 23 October 2011 07:01

More than 160 projects and events are being planned for the millennium in London, a major report reveals today. The London Millennium Study is the first comprehensive survey of plans to mark 2000. Commissioned by the London Tourist Board, the London Arts Board and the Government Office for London, it details about 90 proposals to transform the capital. Newly revealed projects include: nConstruction of a new Thames bridge, inspired by the 12th-century London Bridge, lined with houses and shops, near Chelsea Embankment or close to the existing London Bridge; nTurning Bethlem Royal Hospital Museum, which holds records from "Bedlam", intoa "Museum of the Mind" (up to £500,000); nRegenerating Greenwich waterfront with a new Royal Artillery Museum, developing the Royal Docks and the Cutty Sark Gardens and extending the National Maritime Museum (£200m plus); nBuilding the world's largest ferris wheel in the Jubilee Gardens (self-financing); nRefurbishing the British Museum's Great Court (£25m plus); nCreating a heritage museum at the Royal Canoe Club, Kingston; nReviving Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens on the old site (up to £5m); nRestoring Highgate Cemetery; nA virtual reality trail at Richmond Park (up to £500,000).

nThe Crossmillennia project, led by the borough of Camden, which will include building an open air arts arena, events hall and studio in King's Cross (£250m); Most of the proposals rely on lottery money from the Millennium Commission. They will also include the Albertopolis proposal to link the South Kensington institutions (estimated over £25m), two plans for monorails into London, one following the M25 (£1.9bn) and the other going from Heathrow via Kew to Tilbury Docks (£1.7bn), the refurbishment of the Royal Opera House (£160m), the development of the Bankside Tate (over £25m) and transforming the South Bank Centre (over £25m).

The millennial events are more straightforward. Alexandra Palace is planning a year of "Millennium Dinners". Battersea Arts Centre wants a New Year cabaret evening, the Barbican Gallery hopes to hold a fin-de-siecle exhibition, the Hackney Empire is planning a year-long popular theatre festival and a consortium of major British companies is proposing an expo-style event featuring an Imax film theatre, theme park rides and water gardens.

But the report, by Leisure Futures and the University of North London, warns: "The ideas being presented have been formed within the context of the organisation proposing them. As such they are bounded and defined by the agenda of that organisation. Worthy though such initiatives may be, as a generality they strike the report's authors as less inspiring than they had hoped."

It says several organisations appear to be "coat-tailing" the millennium - opportunistically applying for Millennium Commission funding for projects already planned.

The report notes the "relative lack of enthusiasm" of most London local authorities: projects are concentrated in central London, Greenwich and Richmond.

It asks: "Is it the correct assumption that most people living in outer London will be happy to see most of London's celebrations of the millennium (and most of the funding it attracts) going to capital projects in central London and along the Thames?"

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