Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Further supplementary memorandum submitted by the South Bank Centre



Foyers Project Extension Project
Pre-Application discussions Feb 2000Full Application July 2000
Initial Application April 2000Revised Application Feb 2001
Full Application September 2000
Further Information November 2000


  The purpose of this short paper is to establish the broad principles, objectives and benefits of the refurbishment of the Royal Festival Hall (RFH).

  The refurbishment of the Royal Festival Hall is an integrated plan with two complimentary parts; the refurbishment of the public foyers and the creation of an extension building alongside the RFH. The applications also seek to rationalise and improve the existing servicing of the RFH.

  The proposals are based on two principles. First, that the RFH is the jewel in the South Bank's crown and that any proposals for the wider development of the site must defer to any plan for the refurbishment and improvement of its setting and accessibility. Work started on the present RFH project in 1998, some two years before the current masterplan.

  The second principle is that the two applications are part of a common plan for the RFH and require consent for both elements to fully refurbish the RFH. If the Extension Building were not approved SBC could achieve 70 per cent of the proposals for the Foyers project.


  The RFH is the only lasting legacy of the 1951 Festival of Britain, which drew six million visits from all over the nation between May to September.

  It has been the focal point of London's cultural life for over 50 years and virtually every major international artist has performed on the stage.

  It still represents a symbol of accessible culture. It is open 364 days a year from 10am to 11pm and attracts 2.8 million visits a year (more than see Manchester United at Old Trafford) comprising 800,000 ticket buyers and two million free foyer visits. In fact since it opened in May 1951 it has hosted over 60 million visits (the equivalent of the population of the United Kingdom).

  Over 200,000 visits a year are made by residents in Lambeth and Southwark; some 30,000 ticket buyers live in Lambeth and the RFH is the home of SBC's education programmes enjoyed by thousands of pupils from Lambeth schools.

  In 1988 it was Britain's first post war public building to be Grade 1 listed.

  In July 1999 the Heritage Lottery Fund made an in-principle award of £12.5 million towards the RFH refurbishment. In August 2001 the Arts Council made an in-principle award of £20 million. The Heritage Lottery Fund will consider increasing its award to £20 million in the summer.

  Following the 50th birthday celebrations (which were greeted with significant public and media response) we launched a major fundraising campaign and already over 9,000 ticket buyers have pledged £1.2 million towards the refurbishment programme. With this, and the offer from the two lottery bodies, we have 75 per cent of the funding in place.


  The RFH is heavily used and now accommodates functions never originally planned for the building. For example education events, free lunchtime events and performances in the auditorium requiring complex production arrangements, record, book and gift shops and cafés. These functions not only broaden the range of activities for the public but also generate significant revenue income and enhance the sustainability of SBC's arts and cultural programme.

  In addition, areas that were open to the public such as the roof terraces, Level four long interval bars and the recital room were colonised by staff after the abolition of the GLC in 1986. Or, they have been used to accommodate new functions passed to SBC by the Arts Council such as the administration of the Hayward Gallery, the Saison Poetry Library and Arts Council Collection.

  The RFH does not meet the requirements of the Disabled Discrimination Act that will become law in 2004.

  No major investment has been made in the RFH for over 40 years since the 1964 extensions. This has meant that the basic infrastructure of drains, wiring, plumbing and heating are in need of a major overhaul.


  SBC has consulted the public widely on two occasions. In August 2000 and April/May 2001. This took the form of two exhibitions in the foyer publicised in the monthly magazine Southbank (130,000 print run and distribution) and through 20,000 leaflets distributed to Lambeth residents, audiences, visitors and passing commuters.

  A total of 1,194 response forms were returned. Some 75 per cent of people supported the proposals with 80 per cent saying that they enhanced the setting of the RFH. Lambeth residents represented 15 per cent of respondents. In addition separate presentations were made to the Council for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE), English Heritage, the Twentieth Century Society, the Greater London Authority (GLA) and the Waterloo Community Development Group (WCDG).

  The project has the support of English Heritage, CABE, the SBC Access Users Group, the Arts Council of England (ACE), the resident orchestras (London Philharmonic/Philharmonia), Heritage Lottery Fund, The Mayor and the Department for Culture Media and Sport.


5.1  Objectives and Public Benefits

  There are five key objectives of the proposals.


  To restore the Grade 1 listed building and its infrastructure (eg lifts, toilets, fabric etc) that has become tired and in need of refurbishment.


  To reinstate the original entrance as introduced in the 1950's plan.

  The ground floor entrance at the Waterloo doors (opposite the Hayward and Queen Elizabeth Hall) and the terrace entrance (opposite Hungerford Bridge).


  To introduce a new lift beside the Waterloo entrance to provide access for all to every level and half level in the building in line with Disability Discrimination Act requirements.

  Four platform lifts are also proposed to negotiate half levels. Fourteen additional accessible toilets will be provided.

Outside Spaces Reinstated and Enlarged

  To create vitality and interest on all four sides of the RFH.

  There will be new cafés opening out to Festival Square (facing Lambeth) and the terrace overlooking the river as well as the relocation of the book and record shops opening out onto a new landscaped Queen's Walk.

  The Extension Building will screen the Hungerford Entrance from the railway and animate the enlarged terrace entrance and commuter route off the bridge with cultural shops.

  The rationalisation of the servicing will remove servicing lanes and delivery yards from pedestrian routes and create new public squares on three sides of the RFH.

Internal Public Open Spaces

  To restore and enliven the Foyer spaces from the ground floor to the Level 6 terrace overlooking London and the River.

  There have been no formal objections to these proposals.


6.1  Objectives and Public Benefits

Complete the Refurbishment of the RFH

  To create office space for SBC staff next door to the RFH so that the following areas within the building can be:

    —  reopened for public use:

      —  Level 6 roof terrace overlooking Westminster

      —  Level 4 interval bars on both sides of the building

    —  reinstate original uses:

      —  Level 5 recital room

    —  improve access to current uses:

      —  relocate the Poetry Library and Voice Box to the ground floor

      —  create a purpose built and enlarged education centre.

  SBC staff need to be located adjacent to the RFH not only because of the day to day operational and licensing requirements of managing a major public building, but also because of the very significant growth since 1986 in directly managed artistic and educational activities in music, dance, performance and literature.

Enhance the Setting

  To enhance the setting of the RFH by screening the building from the noise of the railway and covering an unattractive service lane, making a more attractive entrance and enliven the pedestrian route from Charing Cross to Waterloo with cultural retail.

Improve Access for All

  To improve access for all by relocating SBC's security staff to the Extension Building so that the two lifts (one off the bridge and one off the terrace into Festival Square) have 24 hour support. In addition a new wide staircase off the terrace will replace the narrow spiral staircase. This represents the only level route from Trafalgar Square to the South Bank.

6.2  Modifications Made to the Design to Address Concerns

   A number of modifications have been made to the design of the Extension Building to address concerns raised. These are:

    —  the 5th floor pavilion has been removed to avoid impacting on the strategic viewing corridor from Westminster to St Paul's;

    —  the windows facing the railway have been recessed to give greater modulation to the elevation;

    —  the roof has been landscaped as it will be overlooked

    —  the eaves line of the building has been expressed (English Heritage request)

    —  the OBU (Outside Broadcast Unit) waiting areas has been removed resulting in a reduction in width of the service road by 3m. This means the OBU is concealed in the arches to the river end, with a maximum of two vehicles exposed to the end of the service road in occasional circumstances

    —  the piled foundations have been redesigned to enable any future underground servicing to be implemented without cause further obstruction

    —  the cooling plant that serves the RFH has been relocated from the arches to enable any future development to the arches to occur without impacting on the infrastructure of the Hall

  Concerns have been expressed about the height of the building but this is ditched by the office requirements that enable SBC staff to be accommodated, to achieve recommended space standards and to have dedicated meeting rooms for the first time.

6.3  Rationalisation of the Servicing

  the servicing proposals seek to modify the long-standing current arrangements and have been included as part of the Extension Building application.

Current Servicing Arrangements

  The existing servicing layout, which uses both sides of the Hungerford Bridge including the car park has operated since the mid 1960's. The Royal Festival Hall has its access from Belvedere Road, north of Hungerford Bridge. Catering vehicles and small production related vehicles drive around the loop service road formed from the two open arches of Hungerford Bridge and the service road on the south side of Hungerford Bridge. Larger production vehicles turn around in the area of Festival Square adjacent to the artist's entrance then reverse into the service road.

Objectives and Public Benefits of the Proposed Servicing Arrangements

  The proposal essentially combines the two existing service roads (to either side of Hungerford Viaduct) into a wider road to the Hungerford car park side. This enables all the servicing to be released from around the Royal festival Hall, concealing deliveries within the arches and under the retail proposed at terrace level. It also provides a security centre and adequate goods storage releasing space at Level 1 of the RFH for public use. It meets the criteria for the efficient and continued operation of the Royal Festival Hall. In particular it:


  1.  Provides direct and level access to both goods lifts by delivery vehicles

  2.  Provides direct connection between artists' and staff reception and lift

  3.  Provides adequate storage near goods lift

  4.  Provides a security centre adjacent to both goods lift and service areas


  1.  Maintains pedestrian access between Hungerford footbridge and Belvedere Road

  2.  Provides pedestrian safety by separating vehicles and pedestrians

  3.  Provides access for all—disabled and pushchairs

  4.  Achieves disabled access from Hungerford footbridge

Alternative Proposals Considered

  SBC has considered a number of alternative servicing strategies to test how essential the current service lane on Hungerford car park was to the efficient operation of the RFH. None of the alternatives provided the same benefits to the operation of the RFH, its setting or improved public realm around and within the building and pedestrian access to it.

  SBC has considered a shorter service lane on the Hungerford car park but this will increase service vehicle congestion within SBC's estate leading to potential tailbacks into Belvedere Road and add significantly to SBC's annual operational costs with increased staff for traffic management.

  SBC also considered a number of underground servicing solutions. While these may be technically feasible, the cost of implementing them would be some £9 million and the long ramps required to get underground would blight large amounts of public realm and cause tailbacks into Belvedere Road. There is no prospect of SBC being able to secure the funding for this. The construction of the Extension Building does not either increase the cost or make technically more difficult an underground solution should funding from other sources become available at a later date.


  Two further opportunities have arisen as a result of the refurbishment proposals. First, the consolidation of 13 formal and 13 informal disabled car parking spaces into a 26 space dedicated disabled car park in the QEH/PR undercroft. This has the support of the SBC Access Users Group. The second is that SBC will remove all coach parking from its estate.


  There are two important links between the two applications.

  The first link is the offices provided by the Extension Building. This frees up space in the RFH to re-open areas for public use, reinstate original uses and relocate existing uses to improve public access.

  The second link is the wide staircase off the Hungerford terrace into Festival Square which replaces the spiral staircase. This is proposed in anticipation of the seven million pedestrians using the new footbridge each year. Although it can be implemented within the Foyers applications the foot of the stair arrives close to the production vehicle delivery area with restaurant conflict of vehicles and pedestrian traffic.

  Although the two applications are complimentary and planned as part of the whole it is possible to start work on the RFH without the Extension Building. However, there are significant implications in doing so.

  The following public benefits would be lost in the RFH refurbishment project:

    —  No public roof terrace overlooking the Houses of Parliament and the BA London Eye

    —  No restoration of the Level 4 interval bars to their original size

    —  No recital room on Level 5 (Poetry Library can't move)

    —  No relocation of the Poetry Library/Voice Box to Level 1 Riverside (Box Office administration can't move)

    —  Reduction in the size of the Education Centre (security accommodated here)

    —  Wide staircase off Hungerford terrace into Festival Square arrives in service area

  Without the Extension Building, some 30 per cent of the refurbishment project could not be implemented.

  In addition there would be:

    —  no rationalisation of servicing and consequent operational efficiencies for the RFH

    —  no enhancement to the setting of the Grade 1 listed RFH


  The refurbishment of the RFH is much welcomed and largely uncontroversial.

  The RFH has a longstanding international reputation. The refurbishment is necessary and long overdue so as to maintain it's national and international competitiveness.

  The proposals improve:

    —  the quality and increase the amount of public realm on four sides of the building

    —  its setting within a conservation area

    —  access to and within the building as required by the DDA in 2004

    —  the operation efficiency of the RFH and the range of facilities it provides audiences and visitors

  The servicing proposal, the only practical way to service the RFH, builds on long standing current arrangements by adding three metres to the existing service road. This road has and will continue to be required by Railtrack for access to the railway bridge for maintenance or in the event of an accident.

  Lambeth Council's ambition, as expressed in its adopted Unitary Development Plans (UDP) to create open space on Hungerford car park, will therefore always have to incorporate a service lane (suitably landscaped) alongside the railway viaduct. The Council designated the car park Metropolitan Open Land (MOL) with the servicing lane use on it. This anomaly has been recognised in the first draft deposit of the borough's new UDP on 15 January 2002, which proposes to de-designate the service lane from the Plan.

  In addition, the proposals put back more public space than it takes away from Hungerford car park by completely pedestrianising Festival Square and removing the access road "corset" around the RFH from the Waterloo doors to the river frontage. This will be re-landscaped linking the Hall more directly with Queen's Walk.

  The issues to be considered by Lambeth are whether the applications prejudice:

    —  Lambeth's implementation of UDP policy

    —  The implementation of underground servicing

    —  The implementation of SBC masterplan

  The answer to all three is that the RFH refurbishment project does not prejudice any of the above.

February 2002

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