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.
- Blair argued Putin should get ‘top table’ seat
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.