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Wilkinson Eyre's Dyson Academy wins surprise go-ahead

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A week is a long time in Bath. Six days ago Wilkinson Eyre’s academy for billionaire vacuum magnate James Dyson looked dead in the water – recommended for refusal by council officers worried about flooding and the scheme’s potential impact on the ‘historic character’ of the city.

A fiery rant by Chris Wilkinson on Friday (AJ online 14.03.08), a sympathetic planning committee (last night) and the proposal wins whatcan only be described as ‘an unlikely’ approval.

A remarkable u-turn and the latest twist in a three-year saga surrounding the controversial 10,888m2 School of Design Innovation which will see the part demolition of Thomas Fuller’s grade II listed 19th century Newark Works.

Project architect Sebastian Ricard admitted he was ‘very surprised and very pleased’ following the seven-five vote in favour of the £25 engineering school by members of Bath and North East Somerset Council's development control committee.

He said: ‘We thought the report was very negative so we didn’t think we had much of a chance.

‘But it has given back my confidence in the democratic process – it was a very high-level debate. The decision also shows there is now an awareness in Bath that things need to change and that the city cannot rely solely on tourism.’

However, the scheme still has a number of hurdles to clear including further discussion with the Environment Agency (EA) to allay any further fears about the flooding of the South Quays site.

Ricard added: ‘The key issue is to have a good discussion with EA. We have designed the building to a much higher standard than is normally required by the agency and we wouldn’t persevere with the scheme if we didn’t think we could guarantee the safety of the kids.’

The school could open as early as 2010.

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