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Witherford Watson Mann seeks planning approval for stable yard theatre

Watson mann theatre
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Witherford Watson Mann has submitted designs for a new 400-seat theatre in the 17th-century stable yard of a country estate in Leicestershire

The proposed auditorium would provide a permanent home for the Nevill Holt Opera Festival held at Nevill Holt Hall, near Market Harborough. Until now, the annual summer festival has been held in a semi-permanent structure made of scaffolding and tarpaulin.

The estate, which dates back to the 13th century, is owned by the entrepreneur and Carphone Warehouse co-founder David Ross, the festival’s founder patron. The David Ross Foundation is making a ‘significant donation’ to enable the proposed development, the cost of which is undisclosed.

Witherford Watson Mann’s design would replace the festival’s temporary structure with a new 400-seat permanent theatre in the enclosed courtyard within the estate’s Grade II*-listed stable block along with an orchestra pit, backstage facilities and toilets.

Stephen Witherford, director of the Stirling Prize-winning practice, said: ‘It’s an unusual opportunity to be able to build into a courtyard in this way. They are really fine buildings so what we have tried to do is to make sure that when you move into this new interior of the theatre you still feel very strongly the original exterior of the stable yard. All the exterior walls of the stable are revealed on the interior of the theatre.

‘We haven’t done a box inside the courtyard, we’ve actually made the courtyard the theatre.’

A report prepared by planning consultant Rural Solutions on Ross’ behalf and submitted this month to Harborough District Council as part of the planning application reveals that the project design has evolved ‘to be as sympathetic to the historic fabric of the building as possible’ following pre-application discussions with the local authority and Historic England. It said both were supportive of the proposal in principle.

An archaeological dig is due to start on the site in late October. Subject to planning approval, Nevill Holt Opera hopes to open the new theatre in time for its 2018 festival.

Watson mann theatre 2

Watson mann theatre 2

Designs by Witherford Watson Mann

Project data

Location Nevill House Hall, Leicestershire
Type of project Theatre
Client Nevill House Opera
Architect Witherford Watson Mann Architects
Theatre & Acoustics Consultant Sound Space Vision
Planning consultant Rural Solutions
Structural engineer Price & Myers
M&E consultant Max Fordham
Quantity surveyor Gleeds
Lighting consultant Max Fordham
Funding Private
Start on site date Autumn 2016
Completion date Spring 2018
Form of contract and/or procurement JCT – Traditional

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