Hippodrome campaign group appeal direct to City Councillors

Besi Besemar July 15, 2014

Campaigners call for Hippodrome planning application to be ‘called in’ by the Secretary of State.

Hippodrome Brighton

A campaign group created to save the Hippodrome in Middle Street as a live theatre venue is making a last ditch appeal to City Councillors to defer a decision on the future of the Hippodrome site for six months.

Councillors meet at Hove Town Hall tomorrow at 2pm to discuss a scheme submitted by Indigo Planning on behalf of Alaska Property Developments to develop the historic venue into an eight screen cinema with four restaurants.

Campaigners maintain that a viability report written for the developers by J Ashworth Associates is misleading whilst their own report highlighting the inconsistencies in the Ashwork document was withheld from the District Valuer because they are a pressure group.

The campaign group is headed up by cinema expert David Fisher, Theatres Trust architect trustee Tim Foster, Tony Jaffe, director of the Old Courtroom and has the support of artists and writers including Alan Ayckbourne, Judi Dench and Penelope Keith.

Brighton Hippodrome

The Hippodrome was designed in 1901 by the great theatre architect, Frank Matcham and is a unique performance space with a classic proscenium stage and also able to stage events in the round.

Campaigners maintain the venue if retained as a theatre could stage big West End musicals, ballet, dance and opera to thrust-stage, theatre-in-the-round and ’roundhouse’ productions like Cirque du Soleil which they claim would bring substancial economic benefits to the local economy.

Alaska Property Developers plan to demolish the stage and fly tower, all the back-stage space, the stalls and orchestral pit. Campaigners say the changes if allowed will be irreversible except at huge expense and one of the countries finest theatres will be lost forever.

In the new city plan Brighton & Hove CIty Council identifies the Hippodrome as part of the “existing cultural infrastructure” that should be “protected and contribute to the city’s unique tourism offer.”

David Fisher, a former editor of Screen Magazine and a Government advisor on cinema told a hastily called press conference on Monday, at the Old Courtroom, opposite the council subsidised Dome that the proposed restaurants in the Alaska application were not needed as there were 72 restaurants, 19 pubs and 13 cafe’s withing walking distance of the Hippodrome.

He pointed to the effect any new cinemas would have on Odeon Kingwest and Cineworld at Brighton Marina and highlighted how audiences to the cinema were reducing while attendances at live theatres is increasing.

David Blyth, Property Director of the Ambassador Theatre Group, owners of the Brighton Theatre Royal, wrote to the Head of Planning at Brighton & Hove City Council in March this year after reading the Viability Report prepared by Ashworth Associates.

He wrote:¬†Contary to what is said in the report we have considered the full potential in respect of capacity, staging facilities, accommodation and flexibility offered by the Hippodrome and can confrim they would meet our needs. We acknowledge the essential upgrading that will be required after its prolonged period out of live theatre, but we believe that the critical requirements can be met.”

“It is also implied in the document that our ownership of the Theatre Royal would be compromised were we (or others) to take on the Hippodrome, This is not the case. The Theatre Royal, ideal for many productions, has significant limitations in its staging capabilities and is unable to receive the larger musicals. The greater capacity and stage of the Hippodrome would provide this. The two venues would run happily in harness.

“We also have to say that we are disappointed not to have been consulted directly by the Council, as to our interest, as soon as it was clear that the previous application was not going to be approved.

“We urge the Council to give serious consideration to and allow time for a proper exploration of ways and means to return the Hippodrome to live performance use.”

Campaigners are calling on supporters to lobby the members of the planning comittee directly before tomorrows meeting at Hove Town Hall.

Councillors on the planning committee are:

For more information about the campaign, CLICK HERE: