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Practice facilities approved for Garsington Opera 

Words: Laura Edgar
Garsington Opera - after development CGI / Nichols Brown Webber

Buckinghamshire Council has granted planning approval for a practice facility for Garsington Opera, which is based on The Wormsley Estate.

Work is due to get under way early in 2021.

The opera company, which celebrated its 30th anniversary last year, is to cover the cost of the projected £14 million building through fundraising. 

A lack of practice facilities near to the estate has meant that opera rehearsals currently take place in venues that are ill-suited to the purpose.

Nicola Creed, executive director for Garsington Opera, said: “The practice facilities will create an integrated venue that creates a host of operational benefits which will enable us to create productions of outstanding artistic quality. This is really important given the loss of rehearsal space elsewhere. 

“We intend to use the facility for opera rehearsals for four months each year, and the remainder of the year the practice centre will be available for the local community and for commercial hire. It will be the home for Garsington Opera’s dynamic outreach programme – working with schools, local children and adults, hospital patients and many others – and for local performing arts clubs. Our next challenge is the fundraising, but we aim to be open in 2023.” 

Lichfields’ London office helped to secure the permission with architectural practice Nichols Brown Webber. 

Nick Thompson, senior director at Lichfields, said: “Garsington Opera reached out to the local community and the application was well supported by local schools, Chiltern Society, Buckinghamshire Cultural Partnership and Chilterns Conservation Board – many of whom complemented the highly attractive design of the building, which draws on the style of the local Chilterns vernacular.

“We were pleased that the planning officer agreed with our analysis that this major development in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is permissible in exceptional circumstances where it has been demonstrated that the development is in the public interest.” 

Andy Nichols, the architect for the scheme, added that the facility extends to nearly 4,000 square metres comprising brick and flint, an oak structure and stained timber weatherboarding. An agricultural building and silos will be replaced with a three-storey practice centre building.

The Wormsley Estate, which is in the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, is the home of the Getty family, which was bought by the late Sir Paul Getty in 1985.

Image credit | Nichols Brown Webber