altMarch 18 - Design proposals for the controversial £60 million basketball arena, the third largest venue on the London Olympic Park, have gained planning permission, it was announced today.

The building will be the home for the handball finals, wheelchair basketball, wheelchair rugby and will become a holding area for athletes for the Opening and Closing Ceremonies.

During the Olympics the temporary arena will have 12,000 seats for the preliminary rounds and quarter-finals of the basketball before the sport moves for the final stages to The O2, which will be called the North Greenwich Arena during the Games because of marketing restrictions.

During the Paralympic Games it will have a capacity of 10,000 seats for wheelchair basketball and wheelchair rugby.

The structure was originally due to be located in the west of the Olympic Park just north of the Olympic Stadium.

But last year its location was changed to the former site of the fencing hall, in the north of the Olympic Park, after fencing, wheelchair fencing and Paralympic judo were moved to the ExCel venue in Docklands to save money.

An earlier proposal not to build the venue and instead move the early matches in the basketball tournament to Wembley Arena threatened to cause a major row between London and the sport's top officials.

Patrick Baumman, the general secretary of the world governing body FIBA, claimed that the sport was being made to feel "unwelcome" by London 2012.

Baumman, a member of the International Olympic Committee's (IOC) Coordination Commission who are monitoring London's preparations for 2012, had threatened to complain to the Government.

David_Stern_at_microphoneHe was supported by David Stern (pictured), the influential Commissioner of the United States professional league NBA, who had warned that  it would be a "giant step backwards" for the sport in Britain.

But a Government-commissioned report by accountants KPMG released last November recommended that the arena should be built as originally promised in the bid book presented to the IOC by London 2012 in 2005.

Paul Snoddy, the project sponsor of the basketball arena, said: "The arena will be one of the largest temporary venues built for any Games and will provide a great experience for spectators and athletes.

"After the Games, two-thirds of the materials and elements of the arena can be reused or recycled, potentially allowing other parts of the UK to benefit from London 2012."

In November 2007 the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) appointed a multi-disciplinary design team for the arena, made up of Sinclair Knight Merz, Wilkinson Eyre and KSS Design Group.

The concept designs were agreed in June 2008 and the planning application was submitted last November.

Last week the ODA Planning Committee resolved to approve the application subject to referral to the Government Office for London.

Most spectators will get to the arena through three gateway stations at Stratford Regional, Stratford International and West Ham.

They will also be able to walk and cycle there.