Secret files reveal plot to move Millennium Dome from London to Swindon

Secret files reveal plot to move Millennium Dome from London to Swindon thumbnail

The Millennium Dome was nearly uprooted and moved to Swindon, according to newly released official files.

Tony Blair’s Labour government were anxious to offload the £800 million structure, as the much-vaunted Millennium Experience attracted barely half of the projected 12 million visitors.

But as they looked around for other offers, they were presented with one particularly eye-catching proposition – uproot the whole thing from south-east London and move it 80 miles to Wiltshire.

Papers released to the National Archives in Kew, west London, show the idea was the brainchild of the Science Museum’s then director Lindsay Sharp.

In a letter to the prime minister, Mr Sharp suggested it could be repurposed to house a new museum on an old military airfield at Wroughton, on the outskirts of Swindon.

‘I am writing to you about a completely different and exciting possibility for the Dome,’ he wrote.

‘This proposal presents a unique range of features at a time when such characteristics may, together, provide a unique solution to the challenges of the Dome.’

However, he admitted he did not know whether relocating a structure 1,200ft in diameter and 170ft high was actually feasible.

Mr Sharp wrote: ‘This is a “big concept” approach and would need a rapid and detailed evaluation.’

Unsurprisingly, the idea failed to catch the imagination of ministers.

In December 2001 it was announced that Meridian Delta Ltd had been chosen to develop the Dome as a sports and entertainment centre and in 2005 it was renamed The O2 arena.

As of 2022, it is the ninth largest building in the world by usable volume.

The dome was built to celebrate the third millennium, with the original plan conceived, albeit under a much-smaller scale, under John Major’s Conservative government.

However, under Labour, the plans for the dome were significantly expanded, with Blair claiming it would be ‘a triumph of confidence over cynicism, boldness over blandness, excellence over mediocrity’.

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