Just as things were starting to move on the Greenwich Millennium Exhibition, it was reported in the Press that Labour planned to scrap plans for the giant Millennium Dome if it won the General Election this year (1996) and found that the Project was falling behind schedule. The party stated that they would replace the Exhibition with a smaller venture on the site in Greenwich and redistribute lottery money earmarked for the scheme to other projects around Britain.
Labour’s shadow ‘Heritage’ team has publicly supported the idea, not wanting to undermine private-sector support. However, other senior sources privately believe it will become an expensive fiasco.
Millennium Central, the Exhibition operating company, must raise £150m from private sources to qualify for £200m of lottery grants. The remaining money required must come from ticket and other sales.
A company spokesman recently said that the budget would be met and a rigid timetable adhered to. “The foundations will be laid next spring,” he said. “Now that people can see drawings of what we are proposing, private-sector interest is growing.”
This publicised threat later came to a head on January 16th 1997 with meetings between Tony Blair, Labour Party Leader and Michael Heseltine, Deputy Leader of the (then) Government. With the whole Project in jeopardy, an agreement was finally signed on January 18th 1997 and the Exhibition received all-party approval.
Original Source: Sunday Times, 18/11/96
Web’d by David Riddle