£1 MILLION designs for a new performing arts centre at The Petersfield School got the go-ahead from Hampshire County CouncilÕs policy and resources chief this week.

The step forward will be good news for the school, which is still waiting to hear if it has been successful in its bid to become a specialist arts college.

On Wednesday Ken Thornber approved the design of the building, which will cost an estimated £770,000, not including architectsÕ and planning fees.

The school has dreamed of building an up-to-the-minute arts centre since it received £500,000 from Tesco, which bought part of the school sports field when the store was developed on The Causeway next to the school.

Hampshire County Council has also recently made a successful bid under the Seed Challenge Initiative for £165,000, which has been allocated to the education committeeÕs capital programme next year.

On Wednesday Mr Thornber approved the design of a single storey double-height drama block to the south east of the school site complete with a theatre for 200 and a foyer and gallery. The drama block will also contain a box office lobby, electrics and lighting room, kitchenette, a secure equipment store and a chair store.

The mezzanine space has a gallery, staff office, control room and air regulating plant.

The new drama studio is designed to use amplified sound and music along with lighting rigs and stage sets.

The county council envisages that the foyer and stores of the existing drama room would be altered to make way for the new drama studio, and a new entrance would be formed on the western end of the building.

The new drama room would also provide changing rooms.

A paved courtyard has been designed to link the new accommodation and the existing music block which would include an amphitheatre for outdoor performances.

A row of trees would be planted to line the northern end of the building and the courtyard, and a second row of trees would be planted south of the courtyard between the drama and music blocks.

This, Mr Thornber was told on Wednesday, was to screen the building from the houses on Cranford Road.

The new performing arts centre is planned on an area of existing car park, and as part of the scheme 25 replacement car parking bays would have to be created on the south west corner of the site.

It is hoped that part of the package of work will include upgrading the heating in the existing music block.

The planned arts centre is part of the schoolÕs bid for specialist arts college status.

The bid was made earlier this year, but TPS is still waiting to hear if it has been successful.

Staff are hoping that the theatre could be operational by next September. It would be primarily for the use of the 1,388 pupils, and as a community resource.

q Yesterday Hampshire County CouncilÕs executive member for education Don Allen looked set to approve a £437,000 design proposal for a single-storey extension at Buriton Primary School. This would provide two new classrooms with a wet area, store and cloakrooms.