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Ballet scheme berated - but still gets go-ahead

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English Heritage and Westminster planners have criticised a design for a new home for the Royal Ballet School and shops next to the Royal Opera House.

They raised concerns about the size and design of the scheme by Fielden & Mawson. The 1.3ha project on Long Acre and Floral Street involves retaining two Grade II homes and knocking down unlisted buildings, including a warehouse. The school will have five double-height studios and be in London bricks and Portland stone.

But English Heritage was unhappy at the amount of demolition, and the replacement building, which it deemed 'not of an outstanding quality'. The creation of 'a large single retail space at ground-floor level is alien to the established character of Covent Garden', it said in Westminster's report of the planning meeting.

However the scheme was approved subject to conditions, which are being drawn up by the council. The architect designed an alternative option of offices and shops in case the ballet school decided not to move from its present site at Baron's Court, west London. That scheme was also criticised for the extent of demolition it required and its character, but once again approved subject to conditions.

Architect Gordon Montague said the ballet school design was sensitive to the area and had a curved zinc roof with semi-circular windows. 'It would be an excellent location for the school and they could share facilities with the opera house.'

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