The owner of the Brighton Hippodrome is set to be ordered to make urgent repairs to the crumbling theatre.
The grade II* listed building in Middle Street has stood for years while successive owners’ plans for it fell through.
It was last sold to Hippodrome Investments in the summer of 2017 but although ambitious plans to turn it into a hotel and luxury apartments were announced, these never progressed.
In May this year, the daughter of Hippodrome Investments boss Aizen Sheikh posted on Facebook that it was being put up for sale.
But now Brighton and Hove councillors are being asked to approve an urgent works notice which would require the owners to make extensive repairs – or pay the cost of the council stepping in and doing so itself.
A report due to go before Brighton and Hove City Council’s Tourism, Equalities, Communities and Culture Committee next week said: “The building suffers from a range of defects caused by long-term water ingress, lack of maintenance and prolonged vacancy.
“Council officers and Historic England last inspected the building on (Monday) 16 December 2019.
“Officers were able to see that some works had been carried out to the building following previous inspections, including temporary roof repairs over the auditorium, some gutter clearance, boarding of broken windows and removal of pigeon infestation and guano.
“However, the visit nevertheless confirmed that the condition of the building remained of serious concern.
“The owners were therefore requested to carry out a series of further more significant works, including works to address water ingress to the basement, fly tower and internal courtyard.”
The report said that Hipp informed them that the works were delayed because of lockdown. In June, Hipp was asked to produce an action plan and specialist reports into dry rot and the internal scaffolding, none of which has been received.
On Thursday 11 June, Hipp told the council that work would start within six weeks but, after hearing no more, the council sent the Guernsey-registered company a letter, on Tuesday 28 July, raising the prospect of an urgent works notice.
Hipp’s contractor wrote back to say that many of the works had been carried out but requests for a site visit have been met with no response.
The report said that Historic England had agreed in principle to underwrite up to 80 per cent of the repair costs, which the council would repay if those costs were recouped from the owner.
The report added: “The only other option would be to continue to seek the owner’s voluntary agreement to carry out the necessary works.
“However, officers are not confident that any further substantive works will be carried out in the absence of a formal notice.
“This risks a continued deterioration in the condition of the building and the loss of historic fabric and features.”
The work required to be carried out would be
- Repairs to address condition of roofs and rainwater goods
- Fly tower weather-proofing
- Water ingress in basement
- Flooding of internal courtyard
- Dry rot survey and treatment
- Removal of floor coverings, furniture and debris
- Ventilation provision
- New or altered scaffolding to better support fibrous plaster ceiling
Brighton Hippodrome is Britain’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.
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