The new owners of the Brighton Hippodrome have delayed the unveiling of their plans for the derelict theatre so a business plan can be put together.
Hipp Investments said last month it wanted it to be run on a non-profit basis and that more details would be revealed at public meetings in mid-February.
However, Brighton and Hove News understands Historic England, which would have to approve any changes to the Grade II* listed building, told Hipp that it would need to demonstrate how the theatre could be run on a sustainable basis.
Since Hipp bought the Middle Street venue, the council has also put in place extra planning protections for its fly-tower and car park, both of which are crucial to the theatre being able to stage large-scale, West End style shows.
Hipp now say it has commissioned specialist firms to draw up a business plan, as well as plans for the refurbishment and restoration of the theatre.
It now says that it intends to hold public consultations on its plans at the end of March.
Hipp’s chief executive officer CEO Aized Sheikh said: “We feel privileged and are excited at the thought of bringing the much-loved Hippodrome Brighton back into use for the people of Brighton and Hove and to ensure its long-term viability for generations to come.
“We are also very aware that both Middle Street and Ship Street are in need of regeneration and given their importance this proposed development will breathe a new lease of life this this part of the town.
“This project is complex and it needs much thought and deliberation.
“We very much look forward to sharing our vison for the Hippodrome Brighton with the community in due course we are well aware of its future importance as an iconic cultural mainstay for the city.”
Meanwhile, the Brighton Hippodrome CIC still hopes it may get the chance to put its own plans into action should Hipp’s scheme fail.
CIC director and campaigner David Fisher said: “Hipp has released a picture of their plans for the outside which looks quite smart, but what’s important is what goes on inside to create a theatre.
“If they want to demolish anything they will have to get approval from Historic England.
“We believe that what he’s doing will not create a theatre as such, it will create an auditorium. You couldn’t put on the big shows. Removing the fly tower and not having any access yard also removes the possibility of being a large scale theatre.
“Whatever he’s talking about it will not be the way people remember the Hippodrome.
“What we don’t know is what he could produce as a business plan operating the venue as it would remain.
“We do have a business plan, we have a viability assessment and we want the impact of a restored theatre for the city. We estimate it would generate £27bn for the city’s economy.
“We are not sure Hipp’s plans will create something which would create value for the city, and we are concerned that the sort of show that you could do in there would be head to head with the Dome, and even Komedia.”
A Historic England spokesman said: “We are holding joint pre-application discussions with the owner of the Hippodrome and Brighton and Hove City Council to explore a possible project to conserve this Grade II* listed historic theatre, which is on our Heritage At Risk Register.
“The proposal involves building a hotel and flats whilst repairing the auditorium as a performance venue. We need to take account of whether the plans offer a sustainable future for the most significant parts of the theatre and talks are continuing.”
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