National Theatre to be redeveloped

Ambitious £70m plans to redevelop the Royal National Theatre have been given the go-ahead. The South Bank theatre will be "opened up", revealing some of the workings backstage, and will provide seating for an extra 10,000 visitors a year.

The project to revamp the Grade II-listed building has not met universal approval: colleagues of its architect, Sir Denys Lasdun, who died in 2001, claimed the plans, which include a new glass foyer, would diverge from his original vision. The building itself has greatly divided opinion since its construction in 1976.

The work includes a four-storey extension at the south of the theatre and a high-level public walkway through the backstage and workshop areas. The capacity of the Cottesloe Theatre will also be increased, and an estimated 50,000 people a year will be able to visit a new education centre.

The plans were approved by Lambeth council and work is expected to start late next year, taking around two years.