Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum submitted by the South Bank Centre


  The South Bank Centre, which forms part of the world's largest cultural complex, welcomes the Select Committee's interest in the South Bank Masterplan. This briefing note sets out the current position and the challenges faced by the South Bank Centre in delivering the masterplan. It also provides background information about the South Bank Centre and details of what has been achieved since April 1998.

  There is a major opportunity to create a new cultural destination at the heart of the capital, lead the economic and social regeneration of South London and provide a world-class gateway for Europe.

  Early this year we expect to get planning permission from Lambeth Council (after many delays they are considering the applications in the next few weeks with an officer recommendation to approve) to start work on the refurbishment of the Grade 1 listed Royal Festival Hall. In March we will meet with the Department of Culture, Media and Sport to discuss the best way forward. An architect for the Hungerford car park and Jubilee Gardens will then be appointed and an outline scheme submitted for public consultation in the autumn. At the same time we are working with the Department of Culture, Media and Sport to set up a Trust comprising local landowners and the local community to take responsibility for a newly landscaped Jubilee Gardens and the Queens Walk.

  The big challenge facing the South Bank Centre is balancing the arts brief for this world class cultural destination with the planning sensitivities of the area and the right mix of public/private funding.


  The South Bank Centre is a charity that manages a 27-acre estate from County Hall to Waterloo Bridge (see map in Annex 1 (not reproduced)), on a long lease from the Arts Council, who hold the freehold on behalf of the Government in the form of Department of Culture, Media and Sport.

  The estate is comprised of arts buildings and substantial public realm. The facilities the South Bank Centre manages include the Grade 1 listed Royal Festival Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall, Purcell Room, the Hayward Gallery and the Hungerford car park which provide the essential servicing and operational parking to support its artistic activities. The British Film Institute, an independent organisation that is a sub-tenant of the South Bank Centre, manages the National Film Theatre under Waterloo Bridge and the IMAX cinema in the Waterloo roundabout. The South Bank Centre's public realm comprises Jubilee Gardens, Queen's Walk from County Hall to the Royal National Theatre, as well as important commuter pedestrian routes from Hungerford footbridge—linking Trafalgar Square to Waterloo Station—and two major service lanes and delivery yards.

  In the spring of 1998 the Department of Culture, Media and Sport appointed Elliott Bernerd, Chairman of property company Chelsfield plc, as Chairman of the South Bank Centre, and charged him the responsibility of working with all stakeholders to bring the arts complex up to world class standards with £25 million of Arts Council lottery funds and further funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund.


  Taken together with the independently managed Royal National Theatre and the British Film Institute, the centre represents the largest concentration of cultural facilities anywhere in the world. More than 5,200 ticketed and over 1,200 free events are presented each year. Audiences and visits to the South Bank have now grown to 6 million, a third from people who live outside London. It is unique in the breadth of the programme it offers and the diversity of the audiences it serves, attracting people of all ages, backgrounds and ethnic origin. The South Bank Centre programme forms the basis of concerts, dance and art exhibitions, that tour to hundreds of venues around the United Kingdom and are enjoyed by nearly 1 million people annually. The South Bank Centre presents a wide range of multi-cultural arts forms in one location including music, dance and performance, literature and the visual arts.

  The South Bank Centre's venues are home to:

    —  Britain's leading orchestras, ensembles, dance companies, artists and writers

    —  the widest range of top international artists, including artists from Africa, Asia and Latin America

    —  the Poetry Library, the most comprehensive and accessible collection of Poetry in the English Language

    —  the Arts Council Collection, the largest collection of British post-war art in the country.

  The South Bank Centre itself presents in partnership with others:

    —  more new work by British artists, composers, writers, choreographers, dancers and interpreters than any other centre for the arts

    —  four international exhibitions a year at the Hayward

    —  National Touring Exhibitions at over 100 venues ranging from galleries, schools and community centres to prisons and libraries throughout the UK

    —  London's largest free summer events programme

    —  the country's most diverse education programme for over 110,000 people of all ages, social background and ethnic origin.

  The arts programme attracts the world's most diverse audience, and with nearly 40 per cent of tickets priced at £10 or under, is one of the most accessible.

  The South Bank has been a model for other cultural centres around the world and in the UK, a large number of whom have received major investments to modernise their facilities to provide state-of-the-art backstage areas, improved acoustics, auditoriums and foyers, and improvement to the access around the buildings. These are listed below:


    —  Lincoln Centre in New York

    —  Kennedy Centre in Washington

    —  Victoria Arts Centre in Melbourne

    —  Pompidou Centre in Paris


    —  Barbican Centre (funded by the City Corporation)

    —  Royal Opera House

    —  Royal Albert Hall

    —  Sadler's Wells

    —  Royal National Theatre


    —  Waterfront Hall, Belfast

    —  Symphony Hall, Birmingham

    —  Bridgewater Hall, Manchester

  No major investment has been made in the South Bank Centre's arts building or urban fabric of the estate in nearly 40 years.

  The South Bank Centre's arts buildings are no longer fit for their national or international purpose:

    —  the Royal Festival Hall has poor get-in and backstage facilities, inadequate acoustics and run down foyers

    —  the Queen Elizabeth Hall has a natural acoustic which has had to accommodate amplified music, dance and performance

    —  the Purcell Room was designed as a rehearsal and not a performance space

    —  the Hayward, one of the big "five", has fallen behind national and international standards of environmental controls, lacks space for quick turnarounds, for education activities, visitor facilities and the display of the Arts Council Collection

    —  the Queen Elizabeth Hall, Purcell Room and Hayward Gallery all lack adequate access for disabled visitors

    —  the Voice Box and Poetry Library cannot meet the growing demand for literature.

  The British Film Institute's National Film Theatre is in poor condition and too small to meet the diverse demand. The Museum of the Moving Image has been closed. The British Film Institute needs to bring together all its public facilities into one site to create a National Centre for Film.

  The overall site is in a poor and deteriorating state, suffering from a lack of investment and has been a political football for too long. It has dark and threatening undercrofts and windswept terraces. Entrances are hidden from the main pedestrian routes. Audiences and visitors have to cross service lanes and delivery yards to access the buildings. Access is confusing and unwelcoming, especially for the elderly, those with young families and those with disabilities, all of whom face the physical barriers of many changing levels. There is a lack of green spaces and public squares. In their current state, Jubilee Gardens and the Queen's Walk are not able to cope with the pressure of the increase of 3 million visits a year to an annual 9 million (increased by the arrival of the BA London Eye). And the small spiral staircases off the Royal Festival Hall Terrace will be inadequate to cope with the anticipated increase from 4 million to 7 million people a year using the new Hungerford footbridges. Photographs of the current condition of the site are shown in Annex 2 (not reproduced).


  The South Bank Centre's vision for the future, endorsed during the public consultation with artists, audiences, visitors and the local community, is to re-establish the South Bank as the world's leading cultural destination and to enhance its role as the nation's cultural quarter for the next 50 years; building on the legacy of the 1951 Festival of Britain as a beacon of accessible culture. It wants to deliver state-of-the art facilities that can compete internationally. In particular:

    —  refurbish the Royal Festival Hall auditorium, improve the acoustic and the foyers, re-open the roof gardens for public use, restore the building's original entrances, improve access to and within the hall and reinstate and enliven the spaces outside

    —  replace or modify the Queen Elizabeth Hall and Purcell Room into two 1,100 seat performance halls; one with a natural acoustic for classical music and more flexible space. The latter would be Britain's first purpose built contemporary performance venue

    —  refurbish the Hayward Gallery with improved technical capacity to enable all-year-round opening and new space for the display of the Arts Council Collection, and improve access for all

    —  in partnership with the British Film Institute, create a new National Film Centre comprising five cinema screens, a new Museum of the Moving Image with space for a temporary exhibition area and providing access to the Film and Television Collection, amongst the world's largest.

  All of these refurbished and new venues should also include the modern facilities expected by today's and tomorrow's audiences such as dedicated education areas, access for all, art related shops and cafes as well as dedicated corporate entertainment rooms.

  The arts buildings should be set within a welcoming site where the architecture and spaces between the buildings are designed to make the cultural centre easy to get to and accessible, interesting, animated, attractive and an enjoyable place to visit. In addition we need to create a world-class riverside park on Jubilee Gardens where landscape and the arts can come together.


  In delivering this vision, the South Bank Centre has been guided by four simple principles drawn from the lessons of the previous schemes:

    —  Partnership with Stakeholders involving all local, national and international stakeholders at the earliest stage in the development of the strategy through extensive consultations

    —  Operational Continuity to keep as many arts facilities and events running as possible with no more than one building closed at any one time

    —  Phased Development, which enables the independent development of different sites and the design of individual buildings at different times

    —  Public/Private Funding to finance the redevelopment drawing on lottery funds, private donations, some regeneration funds and contributions from neighbouring commercial developments, as well as commercial value arising from enabling development on the South Bank Centre's estate.

  Achievements to date fall into two broad areas; the Royal Festival Hall and the masterplan.

Royal Festival Hall

  The key milestones of the Royal Festival Hall project are as follows:

June 1999 Removal of the overhead Walkway by Belvedere Road creating a new public open space called Festival Square.
July 1999 Heritage Lottery Fund announce an in-principle award of £12.5million towards the foyers and auditorium project.
April 2000 Completed detailed design of the refurbishment of the Royal Festival Hall and an Extension Building to house the South Bank Centre staff to free up more space for the public use within the Hall. A summary of the proposal is set out in Annex 3 (not reproduced).
Planning applications submitted to Lambeth Council.
May 2001Royal Festival Hall 50th birthday celebrations and fund-raising campaign launched.
July 2001Arts Council agrees, subject to a detailed submission, to an-principle award of £20 million for the project from the £25 million allocated to the South Bank Centre for the arts buildings across the site.
December 2001Royal Festival Hall application for Foyers project deferred by Lambeth Council to January 2002 pending a site visit by the Planning Committee.

The key milestones of the masterplan are as follows:
March 1999Established a task force of funders, planning authorities and consultees, neighbouring landowners and independent advisors to advise in the draft brief, to select the master planner and to oversee general progress.
May 1999Selection of Rick Mather Architects as Master Planner, by international competition, to create a masterplan framework.
October 1999Completion of one of Britain's largest ever public consultations on the draft brief for the masterplan (see Annex 4 below).
December 1999Building on previous work, completion of a detailed assessment of the urban design needs of the site; the volumetric evaluation of the arts brief in relation to the different sites; an investigation into the adaptability of the Queen Elizabeth Hall, Purcell Room and Hayward Gallery; an exploration of five different options requested by the Lambeth Council, English Heritage and the local community and finally, how best to deliver the redevelopment with regard to the four guiding principles and the need to finance the redevelopment and sustain it in the long term.
February 2000Launch of the draft masterplan which was in two parts: a framework for the whole estate, and proposals for individual sites within the framework.


    —  an urban design strategy—fully endorsed by all key stakeholders including Lambeth Council, English Heritage, the Council for Architecture and the Built Environment, and neighbouring landowners—creating simpler and more direct pedestrian routes, ground level access for all arts facilities, discreetly dedicated vehicular servicing lanes and delivery yards, new public squares and open spaces and establishing active street frontages along pedestrian routes and bordering opens spaces.

    —  a pioneering disabled access audit of the primary pedestrian routes and Britain's first access principles for the spaces between buildings to complement existing access legislation for the buildings themselves.

Individual Site Proposals

    —  a demonstration in volumetric and funding terms of the need to use the Hungerford Car Park site if the South Bank Centre was to achieve a world-class cultural centre within the four guiding principles

    —  recommended disposition of new or refurbished cultural facilities and enabling development across the site.

  Key features were:

    —  the sloping of Jubilee Gardens and its extension across Hungerford car park to form a world class park with cultural and enabling development underneath it as a way of reconciling the demand for more arts facilities and open space

    —  a new cultural "street" along Belvedere Road, providing activity, clarity of movement and night time security

    —  two "gateway" buildings, one along Waterloo Bridge and the other alongside Hungerford Bridge to integrate the site with the surrounding area and provide commercial funds for redevelopment

    —  refurbishment of the Hayward Gallery within its existing footprint

    —  flexibility towards the retention or refurbishment of the Queen Elizabeth Hall and Purcell Room, and to be decided through architectural competition

    —  the new film centre and one of the new performance halls to be placed under the extended park

    —  recommendations on how to implement the masterplan in independent phases while maximising operational continuity. These were:

      —  Phase 1 The Royal Festival Hall

      —  Phase 2 The Hungerford car park and Jubilee Gardens

      —  Phase 3 The Queen Elizabeth Hall, Purcell Room and Hayward Gallery

October 2000Completed the UK's largest arts-led public consultation on the draft masterplan. There was overwhelming support for the principles of the masterplan but some design issues to be considered (Annex 5 provides a summary of the public consultation.)
  Given the large number of stakeholders and the continued fluidity of the brief, the South Bank Centre sought to select an architect for the Hungerford car park Jubilee Gardens site to work with all parties rather than an architectural scheme.
January 2001Completed a cultural retail strategy for the site which set down the principles for the volume and mix of shops and catering that would enhance the arts experience and help create a cultural destination.
March 2001The South Bank's International Jury short-list two practices for the Hungerford car park and Jubilee Gardens site. In addition five landscape architects are short-listed for the whole site.
April 2001Lambeth Council launches public consultation on its new Unitary Development Plan for the Borough which include major proposals for the South Bank Centre's site and Waterloo in general.
May 2001The South Bank Centre meets the Mayor who endorses South Bank as a priority for cultural, economic and environmental improvement, approves of the principles behind the masterplan and offers support as champion of the project.
June 2001Mayor launches "Towards the London Plan" for public consultation that includes a number of proposed policies for Waterloo and the South Bank.
  The South Bank Centre briefs new Secretary of State and Arts Minister at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.
September 2000The South Bank Centre start joint technical study with Shell to ensure that the two development proposals fit within a common framework.
  South Bank landowners bring together planning teams of the Mayor and Lambeth to prepare a transport capacity benchmark against which the impact of future development can be assessed.
November 2001 The South Bank Centre have come to the view that development under Jubilee Gardens—even though it meets the arts brief and requires the lowest level of public investment—is unlikely to be deliverable following a review of the planning and legal issues arising from discussions with Lambeth Council and neighbouring landowners. The South Bank Centre is exploring the implication of cultural and commercial development on Hungerford car park site only while allowing some expansion of the park. Both will form part of a number of scenarios within the masterplan framework to be discussed with the Department of Culture, Media and Sport in the spring.

  As part of the development of these scenarios the South Bank Centre is currently:

    —  conducting a review of performance hall provisions

    —  in partnership with the British Film Institute, reviewing how the film centre requirement can best be fitted into the estate

    —  exploring a Not-for-Profit Trust for Jubilee Gardens and the Queen's Walk in partnership with the neighbouring landowners and the local community to permit the re-landscaping to proceed as a first phase of this part of the site.

January 2002Lambeth Council will place the first draft UDP on deposit for public consultation.


  The redevelopment of the South Bank Centre represents a major opportunity for London and the nation. It could:

    —  transform the site into a new world class cultural destination, attracting more Londoners, UK and overseas visitors to London, as part of a revitalised riverside quarter, and making the centre sustainable in the long term

    —  in strategic partnership with major businesses in the Waterloo area, act as a catalyst for the economic and social regeneration of south London, and contribute to the government's and the Mayor's social inclusion strategy

    —  provide a world class environment to welcome visitors from Europe

    —  put the South Bank at the heart of London by improving pedestrian links to the north bank.

  The challenge for the South Bank Centre is to realise this opportunity. In doing so it has had to consider a number of important factors.

  The South Bank Centre's estate is in a high profile location. It has unique characteristics, is one of the last central London riverside sites to be developed and the whole area has a controversial planning history. This has guaranteed the involvement and interest of over 50 different stakeholders.

  In addition there are two planning issues.

  The first is the designation of the Hungerford car park site as Metropolitan Open Land and potential open space by Lambeth Council (against the advice of a government Planning Inspector, following a Public Inquiry). This means that the site can only be developed in exceptional circumstances. Any determined stakeholder could force a further Public Inquiry following the submission of the planning application, adding yet more delay and major costs to securing a planning consent.

  The second is that the South Bank is a conservation area, with listed buildings and structures and strategic viewing corridors. This means that Lambeth Council can only consider detailed planning applications. The cost to the South Bank Centre of preparing designs to this level of detail would be between £5 million and £7 million. This cost would have to be incurred without any certainty of securing planning consent.

  The challenge facing the South Bank Centre is how to maximise certainty before embarking on a major investment of public funds. In seeking to secure this certainty the South Bank Centre has been managing the process by which different decision-makers and stakeholders can agree on the best balance of three key elements. These are:

    —  the arts brief necessary to re-establish the South Bank's international cultural leadership

    —  the funding mix, especially the balance between public and commercial enabling development

    —  the planning risk which relates directly to the funding mix ie the lower the public investment the more commercial enabling development and therefore the higher the planning risk, especially when the commercial development is to take place in an area currently zoned in planning terms for arts and cultural use.

  The diagram below illustrates the challenge:

  To illustrate further the challenges facing the South Bank Centre in trying to meet its objective the role and position of each of the key stakeholders in the South Bank are set out in Annex 6.

Costs and funding

  The cost of refurbishing the Royal Festival Hall is £54 million.

  The three other arts buildings (irrespective of whether they are refurbishments or replacements or which site they are on) is some £147 million.

  The British Film Institute will fund the film centre costs.

  The South Bank Centre is working in partnership with major landowners, the local authority and the community to improve the areas of public realm such as Jubilee Gardens, Queen's Walk and commuter pedestrian routes through funds from the Single Regeneration Budget and Section 106 contributions from neighbouring commercial developments.

  The mix of funding and the implications for the wider arts brief and planning risk is now the main focus of attention for all parties.

  The arts costs will be funded from three sources: lottery, private donations and contributions from enabling development on the site.

  The funding challenge facing the South Bank Centre is to avoid a Catch 22:

    —  private funders and Trusts will not commit major donations without seeing the architecture and certainty that it will happen

    —  creating the design needs substantial feasibility funding

    —  this expenditure has to be incurred before consent is given

    —  commercial Development partners will not commit funding without a planning consent

    —  yet for the planning authorities certainty of funding and that it will happen will be a key factor in considering a planning application

  This is why the Arts Council of England and Heritage Lottery Fund's financial support is so critical, since it makes the feasibility work necessary to break the circle, and so unlock substantial private and commercial resources over the longer term.


  The next steps are set out below:

Winter 2001-2 obtain planning consent for the Royal Festival Hall Foyers and Extension Building
complete review of the arts brief given the smaller development area
complete the different scenarios within the masterplan for the Department of Media, Culture and Sport
Spring 2002consensus reached on one of the scenarios by key stakeholders
finalised masterplan
Summer 2002Heritage Lottery Fund consider increasing Lottery Award for Royal Festival Hall to £20 million
the Arts Council of England consider Lottery Award for the Royal Festival Hall of £20 million
appoint architects and other professional team
new Royal Festival Hall Festival Square Café Opens
new Royal Festival Hall wide staircase off Hungerford Terrace opens
Autumn 2002outline scheme for Hungerford car park and Jubilee Gardens published for public consultation.


  The South Bank Centre would appreciate the support of the Culture, Media and Sports Select Committee in this complex process by:

    —  recognising the South Bank's international and national arts role and the need to re-establish its world leadership through the redevelopment and refurbishment of the whole site

    —  endorsing the importance of national lottery or other public funding in providing the seed money to develop proposals that will attract much larger private and commercial funding

    —  encouraging the myriad of stakeholders to work with the South Bank Centre in "pooling their sovereignty" in the search for a solution that will create the cultural centre of which the government, the community, artists and audiences can be proud.

  In addition the South Bank Centre would be very happy to invite the Committee to the South Bank to see at first hand the buildings, the site and our proposals to improve them.

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2002
Prepared 26 March 2002