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Last Updated: Wednesday, 21 April, 2004, 16:13 GMT 17:13 UK
Albert Hall fights extension plan
The proposed 'Ellipse' extension to the Royal College of Art
The proposed 'Ellipse' extension will cost around 27m to build
Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott has been urged to block a proposal to build a controversial extension to a building next to London's Royal Albert Hall.

Campaigners claim the Royal College of Art extension - nicknamed 'The Ellipse' - will "disrupt" views of the Hall and "detract" from its historic setting.

More than 9,000 people have signed a petition calling for a public inquiry into the proposed six-storey building.

Sir Cliff Richard, currently performing at the Hall, has backed the campaign.

David Elliott, chief executive of the Albert Hall, sent an open letter to Mr Prescott on Wednesday, along with more than 9,000 letters from members of the public in support of the campaign.

The Albert Hall's trustees hope Mr Prescott will "call in" the planning application granted by Westminster City Council on 26 February and institute a public inquiry into the scheme.

Sir Cliff Richard
Sir Cliff Richard has publicly backed the Albert Hall campaign
There are five possible reasons for calling in planning applications - ranging from architectural concerns to national security issues - and the Albert Hall is confident the Ellipse contravenes three of them.

However, Royal College of Art director Sir Christopher Frayling insists the glass and concrete building - designed by Nicholas Grimshaw and Partners - is necessary.

"I can't worry too much about the Albert Hall views," he told London's Evening Standard newspaper.

"We need the new building for our expansion and I hope there is no planning inquiry."

The college intends to house purpose-built painting studios in the building, along with a new drawing studio and a research centre for the practice of design.

The Grade 2 listed Gulbenkian Wing will be demolished to make room for the extension, which will cost about 27m and will be within 18 yards of the Albert Hall's west side at its closest point.

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