Examination of Witnesses (Questions 80
TUESDAY 15 JANUARY 2002
80. I will tell you why I am concerned. At the
Covent Garden Opera House, unless you can pay for an expensive
ticket, you cannot get access to a lot of it. There is a lovely
photographic display on in thereabsolutely stunningbut
you cannot see it unless you pay for it. You cannot get to have
a coffee in the high terraced areas unless you pay as well. BeaubourgThe
Pompidou Centre in Paris used to be affordable, you used to be
able to go and do so much, but now without paying you cannot get
access to a huge amount of it. You cannot get up on to the top
unless you are paying to go into that restaurant. It is literally
locked to get access to the lift.
(Mr Mason) The great success of the Festival Hall
in 1983 was the opening the foyers and we want to continue that
and have open access. We are not locking the door.
81. Have you tried putting any of your good
ideas to the IMAX?
(Mr Mason) It needs them.
Ms Shipley: There is a twinkly little
subway at the momenttwinkly lights.
82. You have answered a part of this in bits
and pieces when other people have been asking other questions.
What formal contact do you have with customers and the public.
Obviously the market provides the contact with the people who
want to pay £x amount for a ticket, they buy it, they have
that contact with you and they are expressing their opinion then.
At the other end you have not been very successful with your local
authority. Who is to blame? Do you accept any blame for it or
is it all the council?
(Mr McCart) If I may say, one of the things we did
in 1998 was to set up a task force of landowners, planning authorities
and the funders. The purpose of that task force was to ensure
that when the planning application arrived it was not going to
be a huge shock and surprise. Lambeth were one of the key players.
They agreed the masterplan brief, they selected the masterplan
and they have been overseeing the whole process and we have had
lengthy discussions. I think the real difficulty with Lambeth
is it is an authority that still has £1 billion worth of
debt. It has under-resourced its planning department for a number
of years and that accounts for the fact that it only processes
38 per cent of planning applications against a national average
of 60 per cent and a government target of 80 per cent. I know
the government are extremely concerned about Lambeth's ability.
Our concern here is whether they are capable of dealing with what
is a complex application but not a controversial one and one which
is on a site of national significance. We will be talking to Lambeth
after Saturday's events. They say they want the South Bank to
be their shop window, they now recognise after years and years
that the South Bank is actually part of central London (that was
not always the case up until two or three years ago), so we are
hoping we can move forward, but it is, as Maya said, a depressing
(Ms Even) They lost our application the last time
round. This is the third delay that they have made on our application
process. The last time round they said that they had lost the
papers and we had to resubmit them and that took another length
of time. Of course every delay then sets us back by a huge amount
(Mr McCart) You are talking about the contacts we
have with the community or with the whole range of our
83. Yes, I mean, going on from the authority,
which obviously has not been successful, you do some stuff for
schools and you do some stuff that local residents can take advantage
of, how is the board selected? Is there anyone on the board whose
job it is to liaise with the public? Is there anybody from the
public or the customers on the board itself?
(Ms Even) There is an idea that we are floating to
second a member of the Lambeth team onto our board. I am still
talking about it with the board at this stage. I do not know if
one can do it, if we are legally allowed to do it, in the sense
that it would present a conflict of interest for them. It is something
I have talked about to our vice-chairman at the time and we are
seeing if we can do that. I would love to make it as inclusive
a process as possible. We have done that every step of the way.
All the local residents want us. The hundreds whom we have canvassed
and talked to, whom we have spoken to about their views, invited
their views, they only want the project to go through. We have
tried to include them at every stage of the game. It has been
an integral part of the master planning process.
84. How are members of the board appointed?
(Ms Even) They are appointed by the Chairman and then
subject to the approval of the Secretary of State.
85. There are no formal links from below? Do
you think that would be a good idea?
(Ms Even) That is what we are trying to do. Trying
to bring on a member from Lambeth would be an idea. Where we can
we bring people on board. The Arts Council has one of its members
involved in the South Bank's redevelopment sitting on our board
in order to better acquaint her and the Arts Council with the
inner workings of our processes. We are trying to include people
as much as is humanly possible in that process. It is a very good
idea. It rings a real bell with me and I am hoping that there
is a way that we can bring Lambeth on in that way, as Southwark
also did. As far as our education officers are concerned, we have
great links because that, obviously, is something we can do something
with the community involved. Across the board, wherever we can
establish links to bring them in where it is natural and where
it does not feel artificial, we are doing that. As for the planning
process, there is something a little more formalistic and I am
not sure whether legally we can do it because of the conflict
of interests but we are trying to and we have begun to explore
86. I understand the Cambridge Theatre is a
purely commercial theatre, the link with the public is purely
if a show is good enough and ticket prices are not too bad people
will buy them. Where there is so much public funding going in,
it seems strange that there is no top down.
(Ms Even) Absolutely right.
87. There is no contact, apart from saying to
schools "There is an event in July, you can take part in
that". It seems a fault which you recognise.
(Ms Even) We are trying to correct it.
88. Lambeth has been slow acting on this.
(Ms Even) You are absolutely right and the way to
achieve support is to get everyone to buy into it. I am afraid
they are also stretched, Lambeth, as Mike outlined. They have
problems with debt and with not enough people working on site,
so how they could take the time out to give us more time is also
going to be problematical but we are trying.
89. Thank you very much indeed. It is much appreciated.
Would you send our good wishes to Mr Bernerd.
(Mr Mason) We will.
(Ms Even) I will indeed.
Chairman: Thank you.