ALTHOUGH it will be many years before London's South Bank rivals the West End for eating out and accommodation, there are clumps of intense development activity along the southern edge of the Thames.
The development centres on two busy clusters: the Butler's Wharf area, where Sir Terence Conran has now established four restaurants, and others have opened cafés and pubs; and the South Bank Centre, which began life in 1951 as the Festival of Britain site.
Two hotels are now in construction close to the South Bank - the Novotel at Lambeth Bridge and the conversion of County Hall by Shirayama of Japan.
Recently, plans were unveiled for the redevelopment of the landmark Oxo Tower Wharf, just east of the National Theatre and London Weekend Television building.
The renovation, which started just before Christmas, will transform the building from a derelict warehouse and tower into a lively mixed-use centre, housing cafés, restaurants and a brasserie, all with clear views across the Thames. The building will also house two floors of craft workshops, 78 apartments, a tented performance area and a rooftop public viewing platform.
Oxo Tower Wharf is being developed by Coin Street Community Builders (CSCB), which has been responsible for redeveloping the area with public gardens, housing and Gabriel's Wharf Market, which has restaurants and craft stalls.
The Oxo Tower building was acquired in 1984 by the CSCB as part of a larger 13- acre site. In 1988, selective demolition resulted in two separate buildings - Riverside (to the north) and Bargehouse.
Phase 1 of the development, due for completion by Spring 1995, comprises the development of the Riverside building, which will have an eighth floor added to accommodate a roof-top restaurant and brasserie.
The second floor will have a riverside restaurant and foodcourt served by eight food outlets, running the length of the 80-metre building.
Alex Lifschutz, of architects Lifschutz Davidson, said: "when both phases are complete, Oxo Tower Wharf will have seven different uses - just about every use you would expect to find in a city block in continental Europe".
Further along the river at County Hall, work has started on the upper floors to remove asbestos and internal walls. Three dummy hotel bedrooms have been completed.
The 570-bedroom hotel is scheduled to open in April 1996. Shirayama said the hotel will be aimed at families, not business travellers and will charge around £100 per night.
lThe Oxo Tower, with the word Oxo spelt out in glass, was built in 1930 by the Oxo company to avoid London County Council restrictions on illuminated advertising.
THE Arcade Hotel in the centre of Birmingham has been relaunched as the Hotel Ibis Birmingham.
Both the Arcade and Ibis chains are owned by Accor, which took over the parent company of Arcade, Pullman International,last year. Accor plans to move all three of the UK Arcade hotels into the Ibis stable.
THE Mitre Hotel at Hampton Court, London, has been reopened by Hotel Management International (HMI) following extensive refurbishment.
The town house-style 36-bedroom hotel dates back to 1665, when Charles II ordered extra accommodation to be built for courtiers. The hotel had been closed for three years and is the first UK property owned by HMI.
HMI owns and operates four hotels in the Netherlands and will open a hotel in The Hague in 1994. HMI is a sister company to Stagecoach Hotels.
MORE than £1.5m has been spent on two new function venues by Granada Theme Parks and Hotels.
At Granada StudiosTour, the newly covered Baker Street set, which has been used to film more than 28 episodes of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, will be used for corporate functions, product launches and dinner dances for up to 400 guests. Corporate hospitality accounts for 15% of the annual turnover at the Studios Tour.
The Lancastrian Suite at the Park Hall Hotel, Leisure and Conference Centre at Charnock Richard, near Chorley, has been refurbished to be one of the largest pillar-free function rooms in the north-west.