Brighton Hippodrome plans set to be given go-ahead

Posted On 14 Jul 2014 at 2:25 pm
By :
By Tim Ridgway, Latest TV

Brighton Hippodrome could “be lost forever as a theatre” with £18 million plans to convert it into a cinema and restaurant complex set to get the go-ahead.

The grade II* listed building in Middle Street has been used as an ice rink, circus, theatre, music venue and bingo hall during its 117-year history.

But with the building being vacant since 2007, Jersey-based developer Kuig Property Investments has come forward to convert the building and turn the area into an “entertainment hub”.

Despite thousands signing a petition calling for the Victorian building to be maintained as a theatre, planning experts at Brighton and Hove City Council have recommended the proposal be given the go-ahead at a planning committee meeting this Wednesday (July 16).

The Spearhead

The plans will see the creation of an eight screen cinema with four associated restaurants.

If approved, then the former Hippodrome entrance on Middle Street would be restored while a new pedestrian walkway would be created between the building and adjacent Duke’s Lane.

With the building being deemed to be in poor quality and on English Heritage’s at-risk register, developers claim this is the last opportunity to save the historic building.

But campaigners are urging for more time to be able to see if it can raise the money to restore the building as a live performance venue.

A petition presented earlier this year said: “Such a venue would significantly enhance the city’s appeal to visitors, attracting audiences from across a wide area, including London, helping to make Brighton the principal cultural hub of the south-east region.”

The move was backed by industry chiefs including Cameron Mackintosh managing director Nicholas Allott, and Roundhouse artistic director and chief executive Marcus Davey.

But in the report, council experts claim the cost of restoring the building to 1,300 seater theatre would be about £17 million.

Claiming that Brighton was “already well-served” by theatres, planners said forecasts showed the Hippdorome as a theatre would operate at a a loss.

In summing, the council report said: “The buildings are in a poor and deteriorating state of repair such that they have been identified as Buildings at Risk on both the English Heritage and council registers.

“It has been satisfactorily demonstrated that the proposed development to part-demolish, extend and convert the buildings to form a cinema complex with associated restaurants represents the optimum viable use of the buildings.”

In response, The Theatre’s Trust has written to the government urging Whitehall officials to “call in” the application, claiming the proposals would not conserve the building.

The national body adds that the lack of a full marketing exercise means that it has “not been sufficiently demonstrated that there is no alternative viable use”.

The Hippodrome was built in 1896/7 as an indoor ice rink to serve Brighton’s burgeoning tourist market.

Shortly after it was converted to a circus by prolific theatre designer Frank Matcham, whose other works included The Grand in Blackpool, London Hippodrome, London Coliseum, and London Palladium.

The building was largely used as a performance venue for the next seven decades with Max Miller, The Rolling Stones and the Beatles among those treading the boards.

In 1965 it became a bingo hall before closing in 2007.

Amenity groups across the city were split on the plans.

The Regency Society is supportive, adding: “Buildings must evolve to
meet changing needs if they are to be preserved. A theatre use has not been
demonstrated as being viable since the building closed.”

But the Brighton Society claims: “Although restoring the building to its former use as a theatre would be the ideal solution, the Hippodrome’s poor condition and the risk that if restoration does not happen soon may well cause it to be lost entirely to the city.

“However, there are too many areas of the design which are poor.”

Local conservationist Averil Older said: “If this gets the go-ahead for a cinema then you’ll never be able to turn it back into a theatre.

“We need another cinema like we meed a hole in the head.

“On Wednesday we could lose it forever. It’s just very very sad.”

  1. Roosax Reply

    Absolutely not! Why do Brighton residents never get heard these days? We have a lost a beautiful pier, have a massive ugly viewing tower coming??? Now another cinema??? This city’s beauty is being lost! Turn it into a music/comedy venue with bars, restaurants & a mini casino – something for everyone & will keep its beauty then – we do not need a cinema with no parking we have the marina for this! Honestly come on it’s becoming a joke I this town now!!!!

  2. Roosax Reply

    Absolutely not! Why do Brighton residents never get heard these days? We have a lost a beautiful pier, have a massive ugly viewing tower coming??? Now another cinema??? This city’s beauty is being lost! Turn it into a music/comedy venue with bars, restaurants & a mini casino – something for everyone & will keep its beauty then – we do not need a cinema with no parking we have the marina for this! Honestly come on it’s becoming a joke I this town now!!!!

  3. Perri Butcher Reply

    Totally agree with Roosax – this beautiful building needs restoring.

    If it is not viable as a Theatre, then surely it could be an ice rink during the day with a cafe/ice cream parlour, turning into a dance hall/music/comedy venue in the evenings. There could be an under 16s disco on a Saturday morning, like there used to be at the Top Rank Suite.

    Local artists could display their paintings with the hope of selling them and giving a small percentage to the Hippodrome. I miss walking along the prom on a Sunday afternoon looking (and sometimes giggling) at local artists’ work – like we did in the 60s/70s. This could be another facet for potential income for the building.

    We definitely do not need another cinema as the 4 we have are more than sufficient, especially charging £32 for two people to see a 3d movie recently! Looking long term, cinema will become less popular as people can stream films direct to their tv/laptop for £6 a month.

    Surely there must be someone living in Brighton who has the money to invest in this, or a group of investors/local celebrities getting together. Fingers crossed.

  4. Perri Butcher Reply

    Totally agree with Roosax – this beautiful building needs restoring.

    If it is not viable as a Theatre, then surely it could be an ice rink during the day with a cafe/ice cream parlour, turning into a dance hall/music/comedy venue in the evenings. There could be an under 16s disco on a Saturday morning, like there used to be at the Top Rank Suite.

    Local artists could display their paintings with the hope of selling them and giving a small percentage to the Hippodrome. I miss walking along the prom on a Sunday afternoon looking (and sometimes giggling) at local artists’ work – like we did in the 60s/70s. This could be another facet for potential income for the building.

    We definitely do not need another cinema as the 4 we have are more than sufficient, especially charging £32 for two people to see a 3d movie recently! Looking long term, cinema will become less popular as people can stream films direct to their tv/laptop for £6 a month.

    Surely there must be someone living in Brighton who has the money to invest in this, or a group of investors/local celebrities getting together. Fingers crossed.

  5. Perri Butcher Reply

    Has anyone contacted Mick Jagger seeing as his band played there 😉

  6. Perri Butcher Reply

    Has anyone contacted Mick Jagger seeing as his band played there 😉

  7. MIKE MOUNTFORD Reply

    THE COUNCIL MEETING IS AT HOVE TOWN HALL TOMORROW !! 16 TH JULY AT 2 BE THERE!!!

  8. MIKE MOUNTFORD Reply

    THE COUNCIL MEETING IS AT HOVE TOWN HALL TOMORROW !! 16 TH JULY AT 2 BE THERE!!!

  9. Valerie Paynter Reply

    Theatres Trust objection outlined here http://present.brigh
    ton-hove.gov.uk/Publ
    ished/C00000118/M000
    05135/AI00041273/sca
    nnedrosskeatleylasta
    ndfinal2014070417015
    0.pdf

    And there is a rival business plan that the Trust supports.

    Curiously, there were 130 objection letters to full planning BH2014/04348 but only 6 objection letters to the Listed Building BH2014/04351. Societies and other responses are listed separately to these.

    Hove Civic Society and Regency Society are pro the conversion as is English Heritage.

    I see no reason why the Hippodrome consent of 1966 for TV and recording use could not be brought back into contention and make a performance and broadcasting centre out of the whole complex. Latest TV needs premises and the BBC could think about using space too. Brighton Independent might expand and need a home too! Some cinema and large theatre use is surely also entirely feasible. A commercial arts complex. Yup. Not what is proposed.

  10. Valerie Paynter Reply

    Theatres Trust objection outlined here http://present.brigh
    ton-hove.gov.uk/Publ
    ished/C00000118/M000
    05135/AI00041273/sca
    nnedrosskeatleylasta
    ndfinal2014070417015
    0.pdf

    And there is a rival business plan that the Trust supports.

    Curiously, there were 130 objection letters to full planning BH2014/04348 but only 6 objection letters to the Listed Building BH2014/04351. Societies and other responses are listed separately to these.

    Hove Civic Society and Regency Society are pro the conversion as is English Heritage.

    I see no reason why the Hippodrome consent of 1966 for TV and recording use could not be brought back into contention and make a performance and broadcasting centre out of the whole complex. Latest TV needs premises and the BBC could think about using space too. Brighton Independent might expand and need a home too! Some cinema and large theatre use is surely also entirely feasible. A commercial arts complex. Yup. Not what is proposed.

  11. Valerie Paynter Reply

    Hippodrome report link did not go up right….try this.

    http://present.brigh
    ton-hove.gov.uk/Publ
    ished/C00000118/M000
    05135/AI00041273/sca
    nnedrosskeatleylasta
    ndfinal2014070417015
    0.pdf

  12. Valerie Paynter Reply

    Hippodrome report link did not go up right….try this.

    http://present.brigh
    ton-hove.gov.uk/Publ
    ished/C00000118/M000
    05135/AI00041273/sca
    nnedrosskeatleylasta
    ndfinal2014070417015
    0.pdf

  13. Ms Reply

    Apparently existing venues eg Dome and Theatre Royal are either just under or just over 50% utilised, so a new venue here would not be viable in itself and may actually prejudice the viability of these existing venues.

    Personally I consider that the plans should be approved as proposed and it appears the planners at the Council are taking a pragmatic approach here (for once) to bring the building back into use.

    To all of those who have suddenly become interested in the building and concocting alternative plans – why have you not bothered to do this before now whilst the building was left to rot all those years? What has the Theatre Trust done before now to find an operator – if the business plan is so viable surely this would have been possible?!

  14. Ms Reply

    Apparently existing venues eg Dome and Theatre Royal are either just under or just over 50% utilised, so a new venue here would not be viable in itself and may actually prejudice the viability of these existing venues.

    Personally I consider that the plans should be approved as proposed and it appears the planners at the Council are taking a pragmatic approach here (for once) to bring the building back into use.

    To all of those who have suddenly become interested in the building and concocting alternative plans – why have you not bothered to do this before now whilst the building was left to rot all those years? What has the Theatre Trust done before now to find an operator – if the business plan is so viable surely this would have been possible?!

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