The Brighton Hippodrome is reportedly up for sale again, more than a year after its owner’s plans appeared to grind to a halt.
Details of the upcoming sale were posted on Facebook by the daughter of Aizen Sheikh, whose company Hipp Investments drew up ambitious plans to transform it into a new theatre and boutique hotel.
Meanwhile, campaign group Brighton Hippodrome CIC has been awarded £7,000 by the Theatres Trust to help develop its alternative plan for the derelict Grade II* listed theatre which involve keeping more of its historic features and ability to host West End style shows again.
Mr Sheikh’s daughter, Larelle Leah Sheikh, posted on the Brighton Past group: “The Hippodrome has been bought but it’s a very expensive project which means the current owners are doing works on the inside only up to the council standards as they now have it up for sale again.”
She added: “It did have plans to become a boutique hotel with shops but circumstances changed and now it’s up for sale again, I wonder what they’ll do with it.”
The theatre was bought almost three years ago by Hippodrome Investments, and Hipp Investments was set up to spearhead the development.
Brighton Hippodrome CIC had hoped to put in a bid for the theatre itself, but was locked out of the sale.
But a public consultation on the plans in February 2019 was postponed while a business plan was drawn up, and then never rescheduled.
Since then, Hipp has ditched its PR company and its website is no longer working.
The delay reportedly happened after Historic England told Hipp it would need to demonstrate how the theatre could be run on a sustainable basis.
Its plans were further complicated after the council put in extra planning protections making it much harder to remove the theatre’s fly-tower and car park.
Both of those features would be kept by the Brighton Hippodrome CIC scheme, which has now identified a development partner and is hoping to start pre-planning talks with Brighton and Hove City Council soon.
The Theatres Trust grant announced this week will be used to support legal advice to formalise its development partnership and to support fundraising advice.
Gavin Henderson, chair of Brighton Hippodrome CIC says: “This grant from the Theatres Trust comes at a crucial time. Indeed, it couldn’t be more timely, as we move towards planning issues about restoration of the Hippodrome as the large-scale venue Brighton needs, and legal deliberations that will decide the long-term future and viability of our scheme versus a redevelopment scheme for this wonderful Frank Matcham-designed circus-theatre.’
Theatres Trust Architecture Advisor Claire Appleby says: “We know how difficult it can be for theatres to raise funding for the early stage concept and viability works and for organisational support.
“These first stages of a project provide the vital foundations for both project and organisation, and we hope that with this support, these theatres will be able to make real progress.”
Brighton Hippodrome is the UK’s most architecturally significant circus theatre — the finest surviving example of its type in the country. It has been on the Theatres Trust’s Theatres at Risk Register since the list began in 2006.
The Hippodrome is one of six theatres to receive funding through the second round of the Theatres at Risk Capacity Building Programme, run by the national advisory body for theatres.
The others are Derby Hippodrome, Granada in Walthamstow, Groundlings Theatre in Portsmouth, Leith Theatre and Streatham Hill Theatre.
The programme is designed to support theatres on the Theatres Trust’s Theatres at Risk Register to commission expert advice and acquire the skills and knowledge to push forward capital projects to help save their theatres.
Alongside the funding, the theatre will receive support and advice from the Theatres Trust advice team.