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Dancers drop Carey Jones

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Carey Jones has parted company with one of the country's most prestigious arts projects after almost seven years of design work.

The Northern Ballet Theatre (NBT) and the Phoenix Dance Centre have instead turned to a developer-led team, which includes DLA Architects, to build its new home in Quarry Hill, Leeds.

The news comes amid rumours that the cost of Carey Jones' proposals ( left) had ballooned from initial estimates of around £16 million to more than £22 million.

Although the practice had managed to secure planning permission for its ambitious mixed-use theatre project - which included plans to build luxury flats around a new auditorium in one structure - it is understood two developers had already walked away from the proposals before NBT opted for the scheme led by developer Rushbond ( right).

DLA has become the third practice to be asked to draw up plans for the NBT.

The ballet company had originally asked David Chipperfield to design a new base in Halifax. However, this scheme fell by the wayside in the late 1990s and Carey Jones was then approached to take the project forward.

The latest proposals include plans for two separate buildings - one of which will be 'a commercial building' to help fund the development.

Gordon Carey, Carey Jones' co-founder, said he was angry his firm's designs did not make it off the drawing board, especially when, he claims, there was only a £1.5 million 'funding gap' between his scheme and DLA's designs.

Carey said he feels the authorities have missed a trick in not stepping in to support the original project and help deliver a 'high-quality building that would raise the bar'.

He said: 'We believe that the change in design concept for one of the largest centres for dance outside London constitutes a major missed opportunity for the city.

'Leeds continues to be under pressure to deliver high-quality, well-designed buildings and iconic architecture in order to maintain and build upon its reputation as one of the UK's leading cities.

'We believe [£1.5 million] would have been a worthwhile investment for the city to make.'

However, when asked whether the new designs would mean that the NBT's building was less 'iconic' than first envisaged, the organisation's chief executive, Mark Skipper, said: 'In some ways this scheme is better for us.

'We now have a stand-alone building which is dedicated to us and we are losing some of the potential issues of shared space.

He added: 'We also have a fixed-price contract so none of the risk is ours and we feel reasonably optimistic this project will go ahead.'

Should DLA win planning permission for its scheme, the NBT hopes work will be able to start on site by the end of next year.

by Richard Waite

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