THE world famous Elmhurst Ballet School is to leave Camberley and move to Birmingham, it was announced yesterday (Wednesday). Its large site close to the railway line is regarded as being in a plum position and will probably be developed for housing.

The school, now known as the Elmhurst School for Dance, plans to leave in September 2004 to link up with the Birmingham Royal Ballet. It is making a £12 million investment in a five acre greenfield site in Edgbaston.

The school says it aims to help redress an imbalance in the training of dancers,most of which takes place in the south east. The new school will have a 350 seat studio theatre, eight large dance studios and first class boarding accommodation.

Robert Crossley, the chairman of governors, said: "This is a significant development for Elmhurst. The move can only serve to increase the school's standing and reputation in the world of dance."

The principal, Mr John McNamara, said the relationship with Birmingham Royal Ballet was of great significance to dance and dance education both in the UK and worldwide.

Surrey Heath Council is understood to have been in secret talks with the school for some time over its plans to move. But Mr Roger Finch of the Planning department said on Monday that he was unable to confirm this.

"We are unable to comment on any discussions unless there is a planning application," he said.

Mr Finch said that the school site was in the Camberley urban area and would therefore in theory be acceptable for residential development.

The renowned school owes its origin to a kindergarten school set up in 1900 by Miss Amy Read for the children of Army officers. This was sited over the top of a Camberley High Street shop and was sold around 1908.

In 1914 the school moved to Elmhurst, a large house in Upper Park Road. Eight years later the burgeoning school moved into a doctor's house known as Foxlease but it took the Elmhurst name with it. Ironically the original Elmhurst, which had been renamed, is one of the nearby houses used for the school's boarders.