Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 80 - 89)



  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 there—absolutely stunning—but 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. Beaubourg—The 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.

Alan Keen

  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 moment—twinkly lights.

Alan Keen

  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 experience.
  (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 of time.
  (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 it now.

  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.

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