Brighton Hippodrome plans put on hold by Pickles

Posted On 18 Aug 2014 at 11:27 am

Cabinet minister Eric Pickles has put plans to convert the Hippodrome in Brighton into a cinema on hold.

The plans were approved by Brighton and Hove City Council last month, subject to a number of conditions.

But the Theatres Trust wrote to Mr Pickles, the Communities and Local Government Secretary, asking him to “call in” the plans.

This is something that he is considering. Until he has decided whether to call in the plans, the council cannot formally approve them.

Earlier this month the actor, writer and comedian Roy Hudd added his voice to the campaign against the cinema scheme with a letter to Mr Pickles. Read it here.

Mr Hudd, the Theatres Trust, the Victorian Society and many local campaigners believe that the 117-year-old Hippodrome would be damaged by the proposals.

Those proposals include creating an eight-screen cinema in the grade II* listed building and installing a mezzanine floor across the main auditorium.

Theatres at risk #1The building would also house four restaurants if the plans go ahead while some elements of the building, less historically important, would be demolished.

Extensions would be added, according to the application by Kuig Property Investments, and a new three-storey office building would be built.

The council said that the Hippodrome was built as an ice rink in 1897 then converted to a circus four years later.

By the 1960s it was a live venue and hosted concerts by the Beatles and the Rolling Stones.

The venue closed in the 1960s at which point it was converted to a bingo hall, which shut in 2007.

The Hippodrome has been empty ever since and is included on “buildings at risk” registers held by the council and English Heritage because of its poor condition.

Campaigners wanted the venue restored as a theatre but a report to the council’s Planning Committee cited the district valuer saying that a theatre was unlikely to be viable.

The report said that other live venues in the area were operating below capacity or survived only with a subsidy.

The same report cited heritage experts saying that the conversion would harm the historic fabric of the structure.

But, it said, this had to be balanced with the public benefits and preservation of the building.

On the day the plans were approved at a meeting at Hove Town Hall the Planning Committee chairman Phélim Mac Cafferty said: “The scheme was approved at committee today but we now need to see whether the government wish to call it in.

“In an ideal world we would have had an application to restore this building as a theatre – something that councillors at committee repeatedly said they would have preferred.

“The sad reality of the situation is that we didn’t have that today.”

Councillor Mac Cafferty added: “The committee accepted that a theatre is unlikely to be viable. The owners are fully entitled to apply for a cinema and the council is obliged to consider it.

“The committee felt that on balance it was better to have the building preserved as a cinema than deteriorating as an empty shell.

“If a viable theatre proposal comes forward in the future the conversion is designed to be reversible.”

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