Work can start on Brighton Hippodrome after Pickles rules out public inquiry

Posted On 19 Sep 2014 at 4:40 pm

Work is expected to start in the coming months on converting the Hippodrome in Brighton into an eight-screen cinema and restaurant complex.

The last major planning obstacle has been cleared after the government ruled out holding a public inquiry.

Communities and Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles considered calling in the application. This would have given him the power to approve or reject the plans after a public inquiry.

Instead the planning permission granted by Brighton and Hove City Council in July will stand and the Hippodrome’s owner Kuig Property Investments can push on with its scheme.

Councillor Phélim Mac Cafferty, chairman of the council’s Planning Committee, said: “We are pleased that the government has decided not to call in the committee’s decision to approve plans to convert the Brighton Hippodrome and save this historic building.

The Hippodrome in Brighton

The Hippodrome in Brighton

“It is a real shame that the building has been closed since 2007 and it is sad to see its decline.

“But these plans mean we can look forward to a new chapter in the Hippodrome’s history and ensure its long-term survival.

“I sympathise with campaigners who would love to see it turned back into a theatre but this has been looked at and the district valuer confirmed that a theatre was unlikely to be viable.

“This is a practical way forward which means the building will be retained and brought back into use for the public.

“Some of the historic features will be reinstated and the alterations inside the building are also reversible so, should a proposal come forward in the future for a theatre, that would be possible.”

The Department for Communities and Local Government said: “This is a matter for Brighton and Hove City Council. Only a very few planning applications are ‘called in’ each year as this involves the planning decision being taken away from the local council and community.”

It topped the Theatres Trust’s list of British theatres most at risk of closure, deterioration, neglect, lack of funding or poor management when it published its annual “at risk” register yesterday.

Theatres Trust director Mhora Samuel said: “Brighton and the Hippodrome have been let down by this decision.

“Unless the developers reconsider their scheme we will have lost the potential to stage lyric theatre and performance in the Hippodrome’s unique theatrical space.

“It could have been a real asset to Brighton’s cultural scene.”

David Fisher, from the Our Brighton Hippodrome campaign group, said: “We are angry and furious. It will not be reversible – once it goes, it goes. We have been up against it all along.

“If the planning decision had come up now, we would have been in a very different position.”

Mr Fisher said that Our Brighton Hippodrome would still show its recently completed plans for the venue to the council.

He said that they demonstrate how a 1,550-seat flexible £18 million theatre would be a viable financial option for the building.

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