National Archives: Swindon move for Millennium Dome proposed

Tony Blair’s government was offered the chance to move the Millennium Dome out of London to Swindon, according to newly-released official files.

Papers from the National Archives show one of the biggest headaches for the government in early 2001 was the future of the Dome – now the O2 Arena – on the Greenwich peninsula.

Among the offers, was a proposal to move it 80 miles west to Wiltshire.

The then-Science Museum director said it could be a new research centre.

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The eye-catching proposition was made after two failed attempts to sell the giant tent-like structure. Designed by Lord Richard Rogers, the Dome was built at a cost of £789m to house the Millennium Experience, a series of exhibitions around a central arena, which lasted during the year 2000.

In March 2001, the Director of the Science Museum Lindsay Sharp came up with a solution for the venue.

He faxed the prime minister’s office directly on the 6 March 2001 with a “completely different and exciting possibility for the Dome”.

He said the external Dome structure could be moved to a 620 acre site owned by the Museum. There it could house a research centre, exhibition attraction, and “a living residential community of the ‘third age'”, as well as a tourist village and special school.

Such an approach would free up the existing site in London, which could then be sold for up to £400m, if developed intensively, claimed the director.

But the files show that Mr Blair wanted the iconic structure to stay in Greenwich, even if that made a sale more difficult.

It was not until December that a buyer was found. Property developer Meridian Delta took over the site and its surrounding area. In 2007 the Dome opened as the music and sports venue, the O2 Arena.

The Millennium Dome interior in 2000