Future of Feilden Clegg Bradley scheme remains uncertain but management ‘still working to fund wider Festival Wing scheme’

The Southbank Centre has been awarded £16.7 million by the Arts Council towards the conservation and refurbishment of its brutalist buildings.

The announcement could spell the end of Feilden Clegg Bradley’s controversial plans for a much more ambitious redevelopment of the site which were put on hold in February.

But the Southbank management insisted they were still attempting to find a way of funding an expansion plan for the complex it has dubbed the Festival Wing. It now expects to make “recommendations on this scheme” towards the end of the year.

The conservation project announced today will start in late 2015 to restore the buildings’ interiors to their original appearance and repair exterior terraces.

It will also replicate the Hayward Gallery pyramid roof to allow controlled natural light into the galleries as originally conceived.

And it will improve essential services, environmental performance, infrastructure such as workshops and backstage areas, and disabled access.

The project will also include an education programme to encourage people to engage with the history of the buildings and help change attitudes to 20th-century architecture.

Rick Haythornthwaite, chairman of Southbank Centre, said: “We are very grateful to Arts Council England for so generously supporting the urgent repair and maintenance of these iconic 60s buildings. This is an important step for Southbank Centre following the delay to our Festival Wing scheme in February.

“We still aim to create new space for our artistic and cultural programmes, once we have found a way through the substantial remaining funding challenge. This will enable us to meet the huge demand for our work following the refurbishment of Royal Festival Hall.”

The Feilden Clegg Bradley scheme, which included adding a “glass box” rehearsal space above and between the Hayward Gallery and Queen Elizabeth Hall and a liner building between it and the National Theatre, was suspended for three months in February.

The Southbank Centre was forced to take the step after mayor of London Boris Johnson publicly backed the skateboarders who refused to be moved from the undercroft.

This left the scheme with a £30 million funding gap as the riverside space would have been converted into commercial premises.

Today’s Arts Council England grant will meet 70% of the £24 million cost of repairs, said Haythornthwaite. The rest to be raised from trusts, philanthropists and audiences.

Simon Hickman, inspector of historic buildings and areas at English Heritage, said: “These uncompromising brutalist buildings reflect radical changes in British society and culture during the era of their design and creation.

“Their conservation could not be further delayed and we are delighted that Southbank Centre and Arts Council England are prepared to invest in them.”

Henrietta Billings of the Twentieth Century Society welcomed the news, saying: “This conservation-led investment and refurbishment endorses the Twentieth Century Society’s view that the existing buildings can be practical, vibrant and inspiring venues for the 21st century.”