Opera House misled lottery `Backers' hit ROH plans to net pounds 78m ROH plea for lottery money hit by groups

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The Independent Online

Arts Reporter

The Royal Opera House has falsely claimed support from a number of groups for its plans for access for the disabled in its application for pounds 78.5m of lottery money, it emerged yesterday.

The false claim made in its confidential application, submitted to the Arts Council in January, would have remained unknown to the groups if a copy had not been obtained by local residents.

The Opera House wants the money from the Arts Council to cover the cost of giving the Royal Ballet rehearsal facilities at its Covent Garden site, building better backstage facilities, improving disabled access and carrying out health and safety improvements.

"The disabled will be offered state-of-the-art equipment, and attention to their detailed needs was determined through consultation with disability groups," its application claims.

It goes on to list the Access Committee for England, the Covent Garden Community Association and Disability Action Westminster as being "supportive of the plans".

But the Covent Garden Community Association said yesterday that far from supporting the proposals, it was deeply opposed to them. It described the internal routes for the disabled as "tortuous". A spokesman for the group, Jim Monahan, said: "The disabled lifts are located at the furthest point from the foyer area and the disabled will have terrible difficulty getting to the restaurant. It's a mess."

His views were echoed by the Access Committee for England, which added that Disability Action Westminster had also been critical of the proposals.

Keith Cooper, director of corporate affairs at the Opera House, said: "If we misrepresented or over-emphasised support for the plans we are sorry."

The inaccuracy will prove an embarrassment to Covent Garden as the Arts Council, which will decide on its application by September, places emphasis on both disabled access and local support.