The Brighton Hippodrome is set to be given extra protection this week from any development which would prevent it being used as a theatre .
The Hippodrome’s future is still uncertain following its latest sale last autumn to HIPP Investments, which says it wants to restore it but also build a luxury hotel and apartments.
A previous application to convert it into a cinema involved demolishing the fly tower – which houses ropes and pulleys used to move scenery needed for large scale shows.
But campaigners have successfully persuaded council officers to include a clause protecting it as part of the Old Town Conservation Area Management Plan – which all planning applications should adhere to barring exceptional circumstances.
David Streeter of Save Our Hippodrome described the fly tower as essential for bringing in big shows the Theatre Royal cannot accommodate.
He said: “As far as Brighton is concerned, we want people to come to the top shows.
“We want to be on the premiership level.”
Mr Streeter said having such a theatre would boost the Brighton Festival, bringing it up to Edinburgh level.
In its heyday the theatre hosted major acts including Houdini, Laurel and Hardy and The Beatles.
David Fisher, director of Brighton Hippodrome CIC, said: “Fifty to sixty years ago there were eight town centre theatres in Brighton and we have only one left.
“Restoring the Hippodrome would complement The Dome, and it would have an impact for the cultural infrastructure, as part of the City Plan.”
Consultees the Theatres Trust described the Hippodrome, a grade II* listed building, as top of its at risk register in its response to the council.
The trust said: “The Hippodrome can be brought back to active use as a large-scale performance venue, which would fill a gap in provision within the local area and provide Brighton with a number one touring venue.”
Along with other consultees it raised concerns about redevelopment of the car park, which is essential for accessing the theatre and bringing in large sets.
In response the council added the line “In the case of the Hippodrome car park, any development must not prejudice the appropriate future reuse and servicing of the Hippodrome itself”, to its plan.
The Brighton Hippodrome Community Interest Company (CIC), part of the consultation steering group blamed a series of owners leaving the theatre in a “state of disrepair and dilapidation”
In its response the community interest company said: “Repair and restoration would have a significant positive impact on the whole area and could be stimulating in regeneration.
“The auditorium is the most important heritage asset on the site; its full restoration has the highest priority.”
The Hippodrome is described as “key to revitalising Middle Street and the wider Old Town area” in a report going before the Tourism, Development and Culture Committee on Thursday, 22 November.
Councillors are advised to approve the Old Town Conservation Area Management Plan to protect the entire area described as “at risk” by Historic England.
Graffiti, poor quality shop fronts, street clutter and empty buildings are all part of the blight in the Lanes and wider old town area.
The Tourism, Development and Culture Committee meets in public at Hove Town Hall on Thursday 22 November from 4pm.
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