III. THE REDEVELOPMENT
AND THE LOTTERY GRANT
13. The Royal Opera House
in which the companies performed until the middle of 1997 was
a mid-nineteenth century theatre with turn-of-the-century stage
machinery. Prior to the redevelopment, it was feared that the
House might have to close on health and safety grounds and thought
that essential maintenance alone would cost £25 million.
Backstage conditions were considered "barbaric".
Before the inauguration of the National Lottery, the Warnock
Report questioned the realism of the House's ambitions to redevelop
the Covent Garden site.
When the National Lottery was introduced, the Royal Opera House
seized its opportunity. It received the first very large grant
from the Arts Council in its additional post-1993 role as a National
Lottery distributing body, which remains the largest lottery arts
It was awarded £55 million in July 1995, with a further
sum of £23.5 million earmarked for payment subject to certain
conditions; the second tranche was offered in March 1997.
Lord Chadlington, who was later to become Chairman of the Royal
Opera House, was Chairman of the Arts Council Lottery panel at
the time of the original grant and supported it, but, in his own
words, "had only one vote" when the decision was reached
by the Arts Council.
Ms Allen, who was subsequently to become Chief Executive of the
House, assisted in the Council's assessment of the lottery application,
but was not herself a decision-maker.
The Walker-Arnott Report concluded that "great care was
taken in the assessment"; the application "was thoroughly
and professionally measured" by reference to the same criteria
as other applications; there was "no evidence of partiality
or special treatment".
14. The same Report does,
however, make a number of criticisms of the formulation and implementation
of the conditions for the lottery grant. The summary of the Report
published by the Arts Council describes these as "detailed
and technical criticisms", but does not specify them.
One of the stated preconditions for the original grant was the
provision of an integrated monthly cashflow for the closure period.
In fact, the Report observes, such cashflow could only be meaningful
once the closure plans were settled, which did not take place
until at least a year after the first payment was made. Another
precondition asked for management plans for control of operations
in the theatre or theatres chosen for performances during the
closure period, which again depended upon closure plans being
settled. Mr Walker-Arnott concludes: "perhaps the difficulties
which arose in respect of closure could have been avoided if the
Arts Council of England had rigorously stuck to its pre-condition
that it had to see a cashflow for the whole of the closure period
and had to see the management plans for the whole of that period".
15. One of the conditions
of lottery grants by the Arts Council and most other distributing
bodies is that grants should be made to projects comprising a
significant degree of additional partnership funding from other
The lottery grant of £78.5 million covered 37 per cent of
the £214 million cost of the development and the closure
The Royal Opera House Trust is running a development appeal under
the chairmanship of Mrs Duffield seeking £100 million. By
October 1997, the appeal had received gifts or pledges totalling
almost £75 million. Mrs Duffield was justifiably proud of
this achievement, but hopeful rather than confident of reaching
the target in view of competing claims on people's generosity.
The balance of funds will be obtained from sales of commercial
property on the site. Depending upon the success of the appeal,
the House hopes to retain some of this property, which has been
independently valued at £70 million, or the proceeds from
its sale as an endowment to benefit the House in future.
Although the success of fund-raising for the redevelopment has
been considerable, the property sales are of land purchased for
the Royal Opera House from funds voted by Parliament.
The public subsidy of the redevelopment therefore amounts to
about two-thirds of the project cost.
16. During the preparation
and initiation of the project, the Royal Opera House has argued
that redevelopment possesses the following advantages:
more accessible foyers, a single entrance for all patrons and
access to the restored Floral Hall for the general public;
new performing spaces for small-scale productions-a Studio Theatre
seating 400 and a convertible studio seating up to 200;
of the main auditorium, with the addition of air-conditioning
and improvements to sight-lines, leg-room and seat configuration;
technical facilities to enhance production efficiency, leading
to an increase in stage time for rehearsals and performances of
35 per cent;
access for the disabled, including additional places for patrons
- a refurbished
and more flexible orchestra pit;
- a permanent
home for the Royal Ballet at Covent Garden in place of their current
base in Baron's Court;
facilities for broadcasters, including the installation of remote-controlled
opportunities for performances by visiting companies;
addition of approximately 80 seats in the main Auditorium;
benefits from additional sales and from accommodation and management
Few witnesses questioned this
case for the redevelopment, although the Covent Garden Community
Association were critical of some aspects of the design and its
Some written evidence was sceptical about the value of the redevelopment
given the insuperable limitations of the Victorian amphitheatre,
including the quality of the sight-lines for ballet.
17. Major construction projects
of this size and complexity are rightly haunted by the spectre
of the new British Library, the mismanagement of whose construction
was the subject of a highly critical report by our predecessors.
It might also be recollected that construction of the Sydney
Opera House was begun in March 1959, but the first public performance
was not held there until September 1973.
Despite or perhaps because of the "white elephant"
factor and past cost overruns and timetable slippages, those who
gave evidence were confident that the project was well-run, subject
to proper oversight by the Arts Council, pursued in consultation
with the local community, on schedule and within budget.
The Walker-Arnott Report found the project to be well-run and
considered that it could currently be regarded as on time and
The Secretary of State was satisfied from this finding that "the
redevelopment scheme is being run effectively and efficiently".
Time will tell whether their confidence is justified.
38 Evidence, pp 2, 27; Warnock Report, paras 3.2, 7.9; Q 219. Back
39 Warnock Report, para 7.18. Back
40 Evidence, pp 1, 2-3; Q 7. Back
41 Evidence, p 2. Back
42 Q 103. Back
43 QQ 202-203. Back
44 Walker-Arnott Report, para 3.2.5. Back
45 Arts Council Summary of the Walker-Arnott Report, 7 October 1997, section 15. Back
46 Walker-Arnott Report, para 2.7.1. and Appendix H. Back
47 See Second Report from the National Heritage Committee, The National Lottery, HC (1995-96) 240-I, para 83. Back
48 Evidence, p 27. Back
49 Evidence, p 67; QQ 229-233. Back
50 Evidence, p 27; QQ 127, 230. Back
51 See paragraph 12 above. Back
52 Evidence, pp 27-28. Back
53 Evidence, pp 28, 111; see also Evidence, p 82. Back
54 Evidence, pp 28, 18. Back
55 Evidence, p 114. Back
56 Evidence, p 112; see also Evidence, p 129. Back
57 Evidence, p 111. Back
58 Putting our House in Order, p 24. Back
59 Evidence, pp 74, 80-81; QQ 248, 250, 254. Back
60 Evidence, p 143. See also memorandum submitted by Mr Richard Anstey. Back
61 Fifth Report from the National Heritage Committee, The British Library, HC (1993-94) 550. Back
62 http://www.sydneyoperahouse.nsw.gov.au/about.html. Back
63 QQ 2-3, 35; Evidence, pp 28, 81-82; QQ 249, 255. Back
64 Walker-Arnott Report, paras 2.3.6, 2.6.5. Back
65 Q 274. Back