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Pimlico designer Bancroft enlists Stansfield Smith

John Bancroft has asked Sir Colin Stansfield Smith to compile a report on the £20 million Hawkins/Brown feasibility study for refurbishing Pimlico School. The move is being seen as an attempt by the school's 72-year-old architect to try and edge ahead of Hawkins/Brown and win work on his own building - if money is finally secured next year.

Bancroft said at a Docomomo talk last week that Royal Gold Medallist and Pimlico School admirer Stansfield Smith has agreed to look at the proposals - possibly in a comparative study with Bancroft's own refurbishment ideas - and present his conclusions to the school governors. 'I'm asking Sir Colin to do a proper appraisal, ' said Bancroft. 'Quite frankly their [Hawkins/Brown's] scheme would wreck the building.'

The news is the latest twist in an eight year saga which has seen a series of proposed architectural solutions from different parties and the expenditure of millions of pounds towards reworking the acclaimed but deteriorating London building.

Max Fordham came up with a proposal in 1993, which was followed by a controversial report on options by specialist Carl Bro in 1995, after which Westminster City Council decided that the best solution would be to knock the building down and start again, adding 169 luxury housing units onto the site in a £49 million 'pathfinder' Private Finance Initiative project.

But before Christmas the school governors rejected the unpopular Ellis Williams-designed PFI scheme, as well as the notion that new-build was the answer. They came to the decision after commissioning Hawkins/Brown to come up with a feasibility study - specifically to prove to Westminster that a refurbishment scheme could provide the same quality of space required as the PFI demolition and rebuild.

'It was not commissioned to stand in its own right, ' said vice chair of the school governors Michael Ball. Now there is likely to be a lull in the quest to modernise the building as funding is sought. 'We've got to persuade Westminster and government to refurbish and it'll take £10-£15 million and they've got to stump that up, ' added Ball.

'Hawkins/Brown is in the driving seat for the job.'

Westminster now refuses to be rushed on the subject, however, and is working on a review of secondary education in the borough for next spring, when it is thought likely that it will announce money for Pimlico.Westminster's director of education, John Harris, said that other money for the school to improve structural problems, 'a poor substitute' for the 'effective and immediate' PFI solution, would have to come in the shorter term from its education department's asset management fund. The council has spent more than £1.5 million on the aborted PFI scheme but has left Pimlico way behind the funding it has given comparable schools in the borough.

Bancroft, who insists that overheating problems at the school were largely due to defective and illused cooling systems, still hopes to be able to win over funding authorities in a bid to allow him to build his own £10 million refurbishment scheme.

He has prepared plans for new music and drama facilities on site with help from acoustics expert Derek Sugden, Max Fordham on services and engineer Alan Baxter, in consultation with the headteacher, Philip Barnard. The £1.7 million drama studio will be based on plans of a studio at Sevenoaks School which was designed by Roderick Ham. Bancroft hopes to win Lottery money for the new build studio.

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