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Last Updated: Thursday, 22 September 2005, 08:45 GMT 09:45 UK
Dome sale 'was like a lucky dip'
The Dome bearing a banner to support the London 2012 bid
The Dome has been renamed O2 ahead of its redevelopment.
The government's handling of the sale of the Millennium Dome has been described by a powerful committee of MPs as being like "a lucky dip".

The bidding process was said to be overcomplicated by the Public Accounts Committee, who said it led to there being only one viable bidder.

Chairman Edward Leigh said the problem was partly the government wanting to save face and keep hold of the Dome.

The Dome is to be transformed by summer 2007 into a 26,000-seat concert arena.

This whole process has been run like a lucky dip, as no potential bidder really knew what was on offer
Committee member Richard Bacon MP

The lengthy saga of the sale is outlined in a critical report from the influential committee.

MPs were particularly concerned by the Government's decision to change what exactly was on offer.

Conservative chairman Mr Leigh commented: "Only the incurably optimistic will be confident that value for money has been secured."

English Partnerships, the regeneration agency which owned the site, was asked to find a long-term use for the Dome.

However, the complex bidding process contributed to its failure to do so, the committee reported.

'Uncertain benefit'

That approach was changed in 2001 after there was "little interest" in the site - and the final deal included over 100 acres more land than was explicitly offered.

It means the entertainment group which agreed to purchase the Dome, now called O2, in June 2004 will build a large office development and 10,000 new homes alongside the complex.

Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott has insisted the deal "represents fantastic value for money - both for the taxpayer and local residents alike".

But Mr Leigh said it was uncertain how much the taxpayer stands to benefit.

Rather than "dissemble" over how much land was on offer, potential bidders should have been "treated with openness and given the same information", he said.

Fellow Tory MP Richard Bacon, said: "This whole process has been run like a lucky dip, as no potential bidder really knew what was on offer."

The Dome has had a chequered history since its creation to mark the Millennium - it had been expected to attract 12m people but in the end little more than half that number visited.

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