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London Eye "held to ransom" in South Bank row

An extraordinary row has broken out on the South Bank which has led to the London Eye being served an eviction notice by the South Bank Centre.

Lord Hollick
South Bank Board chairman Lord Hollick is at the centre of the row

On Wednesday the Evening Standard revealed how the South Bank Centre, owner of the land on which one of the wheel's supports stands, has served the operators of the London Eye with an eviction notice. If the dispute is not resolved, the company will have to vacate the land by 1 July.

The South Bank Board's solicitors sent the legal warning after attempting to increase the annual rent payable by the London Eye for its portion of Jubilee Gardens from 65,000 to 2.5 million.

The London Eye company told the London SE1 website that negotiations were under way but it was unable to comment further. A statement from the SBC reads: "BA London Eye and the South Bank Centre are conducting the negotiation of a new lease in a professional and constructive way".

Vauxhall MP Kate Hoey told ITV's London Today: "I'm shocked by this. I think the South Bank Centre is behaving like the very worst private developer. They're not actually a private developer, they're public, and they're accountable to the government. It's taxpayers' money that is keeping them going, and it's shocking really because the London Eye has been a fantastic addition to this area which is part of my constituency.

Kate  Hoey
Kate Hoey MP: "I'm shocked by this"

"Local people love it. The London Eye Company has done so much for the local community and here we have a greedy South Bank Centre in the shape of Lord Hollick demanding millions of pounds ... for a tiny amount of Jubilee Gardens that part of the Eye sits in and really it's not good enough. The secretary of state Tessa Jowell has to get on the phone to Lord Hollick ... and tell him to withdraw the legal action.

"I've seen the legal action. Herbert Smith the solicitors have sent a letter to London Eye actually saying you will have to get off by 1 July if agreement hasn't been reached. They should be told by the secretary of state to withdraw this immediately and start sitting round and talking sensibly about how much London Eye should pay."

She added: "We work very much as a partnership in the South Bank area and I think it's quite amazing that they've got themselves into this situation and I doubt very much that the members of the South Bank Centre board really know very much about what's been going on and the way Lord Hollick has handled this.

"The vice-chairman of the South Bank Centre, incidentally, is a senior partner in Herbert Smiths, so I think there might be a few questions needing to be asked about how wisely taxpayers' money is going to fund legal action when there's no need for this to happen and where with the right amount of goodwill this could all be sorted out – as it will eventually be – but I think the idea that the South Bank Centre is holding the London Eye to ransom is just outrageous."

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