Dyson ready to ditch design school

James Dyson is considering backing out of plans to build a design school in Bath, following the beleaguered project’s latest setback.

The Government Office of the South West opted last week to launch an inquiry into plans for the Dyson School of Design Innovation, which the Environment Agency judges is at too high a risk of flooding.

‘This school was intended as a prototype that could be repeated around the country and its loss, or even delay, is deeply damaging to our economy at a time when we are only producing half the engineers we need,’ says Dyson.

The designer insists that the building, by architect Wilkinson Eyre, is safe, and is accusing the Environment Agency of stonewalling the £60m project, which aims to provide 2500 children and adults with design, technology and engineering training every week.

‘This isn’t a third runway at Heathrow, it is a school on a derelict piece of land in Bath. It is mind-boggling that MPs can be so scared of making a decision,’ Dyson tells Design Week. ‘My trustees will seriously consider whether it is worth going on.’

The school was flagged up as an example of good practice in the introduction of the Government’s White Paper on innovation last year. It also received support from Bath & North East Somerset Council, which passed planning permission for the building in March.

Dyson claims that the Environment Agency’s former chief executive Baroness Young ignored his attempts to contact her, which he calls ‘an undemocratic way for civil servants to behave’.

The Environment Agency’s Wessex area manager Nick Gupta calls Dyson’s comments ‘disappointing, particularly since this is an integral part of the democratic process’, and claims to have been working with the engineers and planners on the project for more than two years.

‘If the Government Office of the South West decides to pass it that would still delay the plans for another year, adding a lot of extra expense,’ says Dyson.

‘I am not sure that our trustees are willing to continue to pay out.’ Dyson will contact the school’s trustees next week to discuss how to proceed.


The Dyson School of Design Innovation aims to offer design, technology and engineering training to:

• 14- to 16-year-olds from Bath and North East Somerset
• 16- to 19-year-olds from the South West
• Adults who wish to develop or update their skills

Hide Comments (3)Show Comments (3)
  • Bathonian November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    Far from being a derelict piece of land, the building (in Bath’s World Heritage Site) which Dyson’s proposed academy would seriously spoil is a Grade II listed building, the Newark Works, designed by eminent 19th century architect Thomas Fuller, who went from Bath to Canada and is revered there. Additionally, the building is listed because of the site’s historic legacy: it was the factory base of Stothert and Pitt, ‘cranemakers to the world’, several of whose remaining cranes are also listed. That is an additional reason for the call-in.

  • Jim Warren November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    There are a lot of errors in this report. It is not a “derelict piece of land” but an area located in a World Heritage Site containing a number of Grade II listed buildings by a world famous architect. The Environment Agency has been telling Dyson since June 2005 that his Academy needed to comply with the Government guidelines and this advice has been repeatedly ignored, so the value of further meetings is debateable. It is not the Environment Agency that has been stonewalling, but Dyson who has been too stubborn to listen. If the Academy had been placed away from the flood plain and designed in the palette of materials typical of Bath it would have been approved long ago.

  • Bath Bun November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    Dyson’s arrogance is staggering. This is a Grade II listed building on Flood Zone 3 land. Therefore plans were passed by the Council against national planning policies, especially PPS25. He was aware of this position from the beginning but ploughed on regardless. PPS25 is planning law not an incovenience to engineer your way around. Building this school on this ground would decimate an internationally important building and could cause flooding elsewhere in the city which is unacceptable. The buildings were not derelict until the council evicted the businesses thus engineering the current position.

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