Experts wait in wings to help save Dudley Hippodrome

Theatre experts today backed the campaign to protect the former Dudley Hippodrome from the bulldozer. The Theatres Trust, a national organisation, says government legislation could be the key to safeguarding its future.

Theatre experts today backed the campaign to protect the former Dudley Hippodrome from the bulldozer. The Theatres Trust, a national organisation, says government legislation could be the key to safeguarding its future.

The trust, which is committed to preserving theatres, vowed to do all it could to help The Friends of Dudley Hippodrome in its bid to reopen the venue. Planning and heritage adviser Mark Price said it could be designated an asset of community value under the Localism Bill 2011.

This would ensure that the theatre was used for the community as a cultural or recreational venue.

Dudley Hippodrome is on the Theatre Trust’s At Risk Register. Mr Price said: “The trust considers it to be at medium/high risk and supports the efforts of the Friends of Dudley Hippodrome who are campaigning to save the building.

“Theatre buildings of this nature can often remain vacant for a number of years before finding a champion.

“Having being purchased by the council, with local support, there is no reason why the Hippodrome could not become an asset of community value.”

The Localism legislation was drafted to safeguard community assets such as village pubs and shops and buildings of significant interest and importance to community life.

These provisions give communities a right to have a say in the future of a building and possibly stake a claim to buy or lease it if that option becomes available.

Campaigners today welcomed the support and revealed talks would be held with the council before the end of this month.

Friends group chairman Geoff Fitzpatrick said: “We welcome the trust’s support because they might be able to give us some advice on the best way forward.”

The theatre shut in the 1960s but had been used as a cabaret nightclub and bingo hall before finally closing three years ago. Dudley Council purchased the building and says it is considering demolishing it to make way for redevelopment.