Hopes boosted for revival of Hippodrome and the historic heart of Brighton

The next steps to improve the historic heart of Brighton and some of its most culturally rich buildings have been signed off by a council committee.

They backed a management plan as heritage chiefs explore ways to revive the Hippodrome and encourage better use of the Middle Street Synagogue.

The Old Town Conservation Area Management Plan said: “The Old Town conservation area was included on the Historic England ‘at risk’ register in 2016 as a result of a steady decline in its appearance, character and vitality.

“This management plan will form an important step in addressing that ‘at risk’ status.”

The management plan has been drawn up by Brighton and Hove City Council and its publication was approved by the council’s Tourism, Development and Culture Committee at Hove Town Hall on Thursday (22 November).

Opening up the heritage of grade II* listed synagogue was the focus of discussions surrounding the management plan.

Labour councillor Kevin Allen said that while the focus was on the Hippodrome, the synagogue was of equal importance.

He said: “In my view it is second only to the Royal Pavilion in architectural glory, yet it is the least visited fine building in Brighton and Hove.

“Something needs to be done to make it accessible to the wider public to help people understand the history of the building.
“I could imagine school parties going – and the University of the Third Age.”

The synagogue opened its doors to the public on Heritage Day this year and is available for prebooked tours.

It was built in 1875 and served the thriving Jewish community which started arriving in the area when it came into fashion in the 18th century.

Among the prominent Jewish family names in the history of Brighton and Hove are Montefiore and Goldsmid.

Labour councillor Alan Robins, who chairs the Tourism, Development and Culture Committee, said that he learnt about the darker side of Brighton’s history while looking at the synagogue’s oak doors.

He said: “When I was looking at them I noticed black marks along the bottom.

“I was told this was where fascists came up and kicked it with their hobnail boots.

“If we can show children this was a time when this happened, it brings history to life.”

Senior heritage planning officer Tim Jefferies said that he had met with members of the Jewish community and representatives of Historic England to discuss the issues affecting the synagogue.

The Old Town Management Plan was welcomed by councillors, with a particular desire for the Hippodrome to be returned to use as a theatre.

Conservative councillor Mary said that officials should work with the Hippodrome’s owners to bring the building into a better state of repair to make sure that it did not deteriorate further.

Mr Jefferies said that the council was working with Historic England and communicating with the Hippodrome’s new owner HIPP Investments regarding repair work.

He said: “We are waiting to hear back from the owner to find out to what extent they are willing to carry out those works.

“If the owner is not willing to carry out temporary works necessary, we would have to consider whether to step in and take formal action.”

Councillor Mears said that the committee should take a closer look at the building.

Having carried out a consultation, the committee approved publication of the Old Town Management Plan for the area bounded by West Street, North Street, East Street and the seafront.

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