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Controversial London development with its own Sky Pool wins £800K ‘Levelling Up’ government grant

A luxury housing development in west London will feature an £800,000 state-of-the-art music and broadcasting facility as part of the Government’s ‘Levelling Up’ agenda.

The project penned for Embassy Gardens, in Nine Elms – home to the controversial Sky Pool – comes despite the local Wandsworth Council being among the areas of the UK which are least eligible for the funds.

It comes after it was given a rating of ‘3’ – the lowest score possible – on the Government’s ‘Levelling Up index’, which compares the investment needs of different areas of the country based on socio-economic data.   

The development – which boasts the world’s first-ever glass swimming pool suspended between two apartment blocks – has homes selling for up to £1.6million.  

The money was awarded to charity World Heart Beat Music Academy, which will construct a fully equipped 110-seat auditorium and state-of-the-art recording and broadcasting facilities.

The charity – which offers free music tuition to young people – said while the centre will be within the luxury development, it will cater to thousands of children from some of the poorest estates in London, adding that the Wandsworth area is ‘socially polarised’ and ‘underserved for music venues and youth services.’

Wandsworth councillor Aydin Dikerdem said it was ‘pretty remarkable’ that Levelling Up funding was being used for a concert hall ‘in the same building complex that hosts the Sky Pool.’

Situated next to the billion-dollar US Embassy, the housing development by EcoWorld Ballymore features 2,000 luxury home apartments and already boasts a retail space, offices, bars, restaurants and landscaped gardens. 

The cash injection for Embassy Gardens, in Nine Elms, comes despite the local Wandsworth Council being among the areas of the UK which are least eligible for the funds (Pictured: Sky Pool at Embassy Gardens)

Situated next to the billion-dollar US Embassy, the housing development by EcoWorld Ballymore features 2,000 luxury home apartments and already boasts a retail space, offices, bars, restaurants and landscaped gardens

Situated next to the billion-dollar US Embassy, the housing development by EcoWorld Ballymore features 2,000 luxury home apartments and already boasts a retail space, offices, bars, restaurants and landscaped gardens

The money is being spent by World Heart Beat Music Academy and will pay for a fully equipped 110-seat auditorium and state-of-the-art recording and broadcasting facilities (Pictured: Artist's impression of site)

The money is being spent by World Heart Beat Music Academy and will pay for a fully equipped 110-seat auditorium and state-of-the-art recording and broadcasting facilities (Pictured: Artist’s impression of site)

World Heart Beat Music Academy offers free musical tuition to young people (Pictured: Artist's impression of new concert hall)

World Heart Beat Music Academy offers free musical tuition to young people (Pictured: Artist’s impression of new concert hall)

Building work is already underway with an opening and formal launch date set for May and September respectively (Pictured: Artist's impression of new recording facilities at Embassy Gardens)

Building work is already underway with an opening and formal launch date set for May and September respectively (Pictured: Artist’s impression of new recording facilities at Embassy Gardens)

The development came under fire this summer after it was revealed that only residents who purchased or rented their apartments at full price could access its Sky Pool. 

Mr Dikerdem told My London: ‘It’s always good to hear about government funding for youth programmes, and World Heart Beat music is a fantastic organisation.

‘But I have to admit it’s pretty remarkable that Levelling Up funding is being used for a concert hall in the same building complex that hosts the sky pool.

‘It would be very interesting to know the role the developer Ballymore has played in this process.’

World Heart Beat Music Academy offers free musical tuition to young people. 

World Heart Beat Music Academy beat out 42 other projects when it entered a competition in 2017 – organised by EcoWorld Ballymore – to win the ‘prize of occupying a 750 square metre cultural space in the heart of the development’.

It was given the space on a ‘peppercorn rent’ – meaning it paid as little as £1 to make the agreement legally binding. 

However out of the £2million needed to build the facility, and after securing £800,000 from the UK Government, it still needs to raise a further £600,000.

Building work is already underway on the facilities with an opening and formal launch date set for May and September respectively. 

A World Heart Beat spokesperson said: ‘The LUF award, despite being in a level 3 priority area, is testament to the need for the project, in a socially polarised area, which is underserved for music venues and youth services. 

‘World Heart Beat provides grassroots, non-selective richly diverse music programmes for young people from a vast array of backgrounds, many of whom live in disadvantageous living conditions. 

‘We provide bursary support and free instruments to more than half of students that come through the door; at our new location in Nine Elms, we will be providing music opportunities to thousands of young people from some of the poorest estates in London, including the Patmore, Savona, Carey Gardens, Doddington and Rollo Estates.’ 

It comes after the Government created a £4.8billion fund as part of its pledge to ‘level-up’ parts of the UK most in need of upgrades in infrastructure and community facilities.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak previously said the cash was ‘especially intended to support investment in places where it can make the biggest difference to everyday life, including ex-industrial areas, deprived towns and coastal communities’.        

He told MPs at the end of October that he was allocating the first round of bids from the ‘Levelling Up Fund’, noting it would be £1.7 billion to ‘invest in the infrastructure of everyday life in over 100 local areas’.

Embassy Gardens came under fire this summer after it was revealed that only residents who purchased or rented their apartments at full price could access its Sky Pool

Embassy Gardens came under fire this summer after it was revealed that only residents who purchased or rented their apartments at full price could access its Sky Pool

Wandsworth councillor Aydin Dikerdem said it was 'pretty remarkable' that Levelling Up funding was being used for a concert hall 'in the same building complex that hosts the Sky Pool.'

Wandsworth councillor Aydin Dikerdem said it was ‘pretty remarkable’ that Levelling Up funding was being used for a concert hall ‘in the same building complex that hosts the Sky Pool.’

The awarding of £800,000 for the Embassy Gardens project comes amid fears from campaigners that a slew of regeneration projects in the north side of Wandsworth risk splitting the borough into two tiers (Pictured: Sky Pool)

The awarding of £800,000 for the Embassy Gardens project comes amid fears from campaigners that a slew of regeneration projects in the north side of Wandsworth risk splitting the borough into two tiers (Pictured: Sky Pool)

He added: ‘With £170 million in Scotland, £120 million in Wales, and £50 million in Northern Ireland – more than their Barnett shares. This will benefit the whole United Kingdom.’

Mr Sunak boasted that the Government will be backing projects in Aberdeen, Bury, Burnley, Lewes, Clwyd South and Stoke-on-Trent – along with Labour areas of Ashton under Lyne, Doncaster, South Leicester, Sunderland and West Leeds.  

However, tens of millions of pounds are also being awarded to areas deemed among the least in need – including just under £20million for Twycross Zoo in Leicestershire. 

The awarding of £800,000 for the Embassy Gardens project came after fears from campaigners that a slew of regeneration projects in the north side of Wandsworth risked splitting the borough into two tiers.   

A Wandsworth Council spokesperson said: ‘Securing £800,000 of the Levelling Up Fund is a huge milestone for Wandsworth Council and World Heart Beat.

‘As “cultural anchor” partners, this money will go towards cementing a musical base into the very fabric of Nine Elms, a place that is fast becoming a destination for arts and cultural organisations. 

‘We look forward to continuing the fantastic work that World Heart Beat are already doing in the Nine Elms community to reach new audiences and bring music to our vibrant neighbourhood.’

Sahana Gero, Founder and Artistic Director of World Heart Beat Music Academy said: ‘We are overjoyed to have received this transformational award from the Levelling Up Fund, which brings us close to our fundraising target. 

‘We believe that our new building, which is cutting-edge, will be a blueprint for the future of music education and an incredible asset for the community, in an area desperately in need of concert venues. 

‘Our vision is to create an inspirational space for music, which is truly outstanding. 

‘And now, with the final £600,000 to raise, we hope businesses and individuals will jump in to support us.’  


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