Maida Vale Studios campaigners hit out at BBC's 'lack of transparency' over listing challenge
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Campaigners who successfully petitioned for Maida Vale Studios to become a listed building have hit out at the BBC’s lack of transparency as it continues to challenge the listing.
Despite the iconic studios playing host to acts from The Beatles to Beyoncé over the decades, the corporation wrote that the building “had never been fit for purpose” when it first objected to the decision.
The corporation wants to sell the building to help pay for a new centre in Stratford.
Now the BBC is appealing to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) for the listing to be reversed and has refused to publish the documents laying out its arguments.
When this newspaper requested documentation under the Freedom of Information Act, it cited commercial sensitivity as its reason for refusal.
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Theo Morgan, who was among those to ask Historic England to recommend Maida Vale Studios for listed status, said: “It’s clear that the BBC want to sell the building to generate revenue, as a piece of land in Maida Vale is prime real estate for any would-be property developer.
“However, the public will rightly want to question the wisdom in throwing away over 86 years of cultural history.”
Another petition created by Andy Wood calling on the BBC to reverse its decision to close the studios received more than 10,000 signatures.
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Labour Maida Vale councillor Geoff Barraclough said a public broadcaster should be acting in a more transparent manner.
“This shouldn’t be happening behind closed doors as the whole process undermines trust in our public institutions,” he said.
Following an internal review of this newspaper’s FOI request, a BBC lawyer wrote: “I...have formed a view that disclosure would be likely to undermine the BBC’s capacity to negotiate a sale price for the Maida Vale property, should that be the desired outcome, in a competitive way.”
The lawyer added that they felt disclosing information, including about the “unique design and architectural features”, “historic interest” and “analysis of the historic listing process” could undermine the public broadcaster’s ability to negotiate with prospective buyers.
The BBC previously declined to comment on its decision to challenge the listing, and has not responded to renewed requests.
A DCMS spokesperson previously said it has a policy of not commenting on live cases.