One of Birmingham’s top independent schools has been urged to draw up a development masterplan for its historic site before ploughing ahead with plans for a £10 million arts centre.
King Edward VI High Schools in Edgbaston wants to build a three-storey performing arts centre, complete with 500-seat audotorium and music studios, in its leafy grounds.
The joint venture between the fee-paying boys and girls schools will also see the demolition of a 1960s-built gymnasium and music centre.
But Birmingham’s Conservation Panel, although satisfied to see the gym go, is concerned that there are no plans for its replacement on the sprawling school site in the Edgbaston Conservation Area. Eva Ling, of the Twentieth Century Society, said: “The loss of the gymnasium is not a serious issue.”
Fellow panel member Tim Bridges, of the Victorian Society, said: “We should be mindful that there is a presumption against demolition of buildings in a conservation area. So what is needed is a masterplan to show what happens next.”
A school spokesman said a replacement sports facility would be looked at once the arts centre was complete.
The panel also had some reservation about the use of a twisted-hardwood strip finish on the new centre and suggested materials more in keeping with the existing school buildings.
The new centre is being, in part, bankrolled with a major donation – thought to be millions – by former pupil and wealthy financier Paul Ruddock.
Mr Ruddock, chairman of London’s Victoria and Albert Museum, won a free place at the fee-paying school in the 1970s thanks to the then government-funded grant scheme. He never forgot the start it gave him and is helping to pay for the new arts centre as a thank you.
The building, due to be completed by September 2011, will be called the Paul and Jill Ruddock Performing Arts Centre after himself and his wife.