The latest owner of the at-risk Brighton Hippodrome has been told to make urgent repairs to the crumbling theatre as plans for its restoration fail to materialise.
Hipp Investments first promised to unveil its full plans for the Grade II* listed building in February, then delayed them until March for more specialist reports to be carried out.
However, there is still no sign of a public consultation and privately, doubts are being aired as to whether the company’s plans, which include a hotel and flats, are viable.
The options are limited not just by the derelict building’s listed status, but also by new protections for its fly-tower and yard put in place by Brighton and Hove City Council last year.
A spokeswoman for Brighton and Hove City Council said it had been in contact with the new owners over a period of time, most recently in February.
She said: “The works required were urgent maintenance works to preserve the building whilst it remains vacant.
- clearing gutters
- repairing flat roofs where water has been ponding
- providing more effective temporary scaffold support to the plaster ceiling in the auditorium
- providing sufficient cross-ventilation in the building and removing redundant carpeting and furniture to aid ventilation
- removing a pigeon infestation in part of the building to include safe removal of pigeon droppings.
“These works are ongoing and we are monitoring progress. The owner has been complying with requests so no formal enforcement action has so far been necessary.”
The council also wants Hipp to work with the Brighton Hippodrome Community Interest Company (CIC), which has drawn up its own business plan for the theatre.
At the centre of the debate is what kind of theatre the restoration should achieve. Hipp’s plans are believed to involve a simple auditorium, but the CIC wants to see a full lyric theatre which can accommodate big West End shows and their scenery when they go on tour.
This is where the retention of the fly-tower and the yard become crucial, as without these, the scenery cannot be transported to the theatre or installed on stage.
David Fisher of the CIC said: “The council is very keen that Hipp works with us because we have got a plan.
“Three of the leading theatre operators in the country support the idea of a full restoration of the theatre.
“We have got a complete business plan for a full theatre restoration which is fully costed and would be sustainable for at least the first five years of operation.
“We are hoping that we can have another discussion with Hipp soon.
The theatre is on Historic England’s heritage at-risk register, and has also topped the Theatre Trust’s list of at-risk theatres for several years running.
Hipp Investments were approached for comment several times, but had not responded by the time of publication.