Opera inquiry told of benefits

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The Independent Online
PLANS for a pounds 40m opera house in grounds designed by Capability Brown are even more challenging in conception and scale than Glyndebourne, a public inquiry heard yesterday.

The Compton Verney project in Warwickshire should not be turned down because of resistance to change, because 'historic landscape is not to be fossilised', a government inspector was told.

But there have been almost 70 objections from conservationists to the scheme for the estate near Stratford-upon-Avon, envisaged as a Glyndebourne - the famous East Sussex operatic venue - in the Midlands.

However, the nine-year-old project was called 'inspired' and 'unique' by Michael Fitzgerald QC, summing up on behalf of supporters, including Lord Harewood, chairman of English National Opera.

'The proposals provide valuable benefits in respect of tourism, economic enhancement and employment,' he added. 'The opera house will meet a cultural need at international, national and more local level.'

Opera lovers want to see a 1,150-seater theatre in the Grade 1 listed 80-acre parkland laid out by Brown between 1768 and 1774. Visitors would enter the venue through a glass foyer overlooking the lake. Nineteen million people live in the catchment area within 90 minutes drive of the location.

Opera is the growth arts outlet with nearly 3 million people attending a performance every year.

But English Heritage, the Georgian Group, the Garden History Society and the local parish council are among objectors to the project.