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Go-ahead for Hatfields ballet school and student accommodation

Plans to bring the Central School of Ballet and a residence for 250 students to a derelict site between Hatfields and Paris Garden were given the green light by councillors on Tuesday night.

Hatfields ballet school
How the design evolved from 2007 to 2009

The proposal is for a derelict site just north of the Colombo Centre's tennis courts between Hatfields and Paris Garden.

Southwark's planning committee turned down a previous version of the scheme in October on the grounds of excessive height and poor design with Cllr David Hubber memorably likening the 11 and 13-storey blocks to "two pieces of Weetabix stuck on their ends".

Hive Student Residences and the Central School of Ballet launched an appeal against the committee's decision but indicated that they would drop the demand for a public inquiry if their revised scheme was approved.

The latest version cuts the height of the building to 9 and 13 storeys and refines the design of the terracotta batons proposed for the facades.

The building is designed by local firm Allies and Morrison who were also responsible for the Bankside Mix development and the refurbishment of the Royal Festival Hall.

The scheme to bring the Central School of Ballet to SE1 has won backing from a wide range of local arts organisations including Shakespeare's Globe, the Siobhan Davies Dance Company, Tate and the National Theatre.

The proposal is also supported by the Chiswick-based Rambert Dance Company which hopes to move to the Doon Street site.

Hive told the committee that there is a massive undersupply of student accommodation in Southwark and their proposal has been endorsed by the London School of Economics and the London College of Communication.

Objectors to the proposal include the Friends of Hatfields Green and the Peabody Estate Stamford Street Tenants' Association.

Zoe Kennedy, secretary of the Friends of Hatfields Green, told the committee that her group welcomes the ballet school and the use of a derelict site but still considered that the building – at 13 storeys – was out of context with the mostly 5 storey buildings along Hatfields.

The committee also heard from Cathedrals ward councillor Adele Morris who echoed her constituents' concerns about the height of the proposed development and called for funding for nearby open spaces to be sought from the developers as part of the section 106 agreement.

Committee chair James Gurling said that the revised design was "immeasurably improved".

"I have completely changed my mind," Cllr David Hubber told the committee, recalling his well-publicised Weetabix remarks about the previous version of the scheme.

The scheme was unanimously supported by the committee of four councillors.

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