The Southbank Centre has announced that it is delaying its planning applicationonce again.The decision has been prompted by comments from London Mayor Boris Johnson, who last month opined that the skate park should remain in its current location. An official statement from the Southbank Centre said: "it is far from clear how the scheme might now proceed without exposing Southbank Centre to unacceptable levels of financial risk but it has committed to a final three-month search."
However, despite the three-month extension, Chairman Rick Haythornthwaite has all but admitted defeat, saying "we are under no illusions [...] we don’t yet see how we will make it work."
Read on for more about the decision
The battle between the Southbank Centre and the skaters has been the most high-profile aspect of the redevelopment; however, the Southbank Centre has downplayed this argument, believing that the offer of a newly-designed space under the nearby Hungerford Bridge is an effective compromise. Instead, "the battle has always been against the economics of bringing a set of crumbling and inefficient buildings into the 21st century, in the context of declining public funding," said Haythornthwaite.
However, the Mayor expressed a different view, saying"redevelopment should not be at the detriment of the skate park which should be retained in its current position. The skate park is the epicentre of UK skateboarding and is part of the cultural fabric of London. This much-loved community space has been used by thousands of young people over the years.It attracts tourists from across the world and undoubtedly adds to the vibrancy of the area - it helps to make London the great city it is."
The Mayor's comments have been taken as an indication by the Southbank Centre that he would call the proposal in for examination by the Greater London Authority's Planning Department, effectively bypassing the authority of Lambeth Council. Though the decision would be popular with many, Oliver Wainwright of the Guardian recently criticized the Mayor for his tendency to overrule local governments' planning powers, calling it an "assault on democracy".
Johnson's comments may be popular with supporters of skateboarding, but they also call the future of the Southbank Centre into question, a fact made clear by Haythornthwaite: "Boris Johnson and Lambeth council have both made clear that they wish to see the scheme proceed and we look forward to hearing their ideas. But we are under no illusions. We have been handed a massive challenge and we don’t yet see how we will make it work."