Hippodrome challenge to council plan

Heritage watchdogs today called on council chiefs to prove that there is no “viable use” for the historic Dudley Hippodrome before it is knocked down – as they throw their weight behind a campaign to save the building.

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Dudley Council wants to demolish the former theatre turned bingo hall in Castle Hill and replace it with a 120-space car park but English Heritage has criticiseded the plans, which it says would “neither preserve nor enhance the character or appearance” of Dudley town centre.

Campaigners have drawn up a business plan for the future of the site, which is currently being read by council chiefs.

And today, inspector of ancient monuments Ian George called on the authority to justify knocking the building down. Mr George said the building is an “important landmark” for visitors to the town.

He added: “In our view the use of the site as a car park would not deliver such benefits particularly bearing in mind the availability of other sites in the near vicinity.

“If the council were seeking to justify the demolition of the building it would, in our view, be necessary to demonstrate that appropriate marketing had been carried out and that no viable use for the building had been found.”

Friends of Dudley Hippodrome are hoping to stop the demolition after submitting a proposal of their own for the building, which has been lying empty for three years, since being vacated by Gala Bingo.

They have already handed in their proposal for running the building as a theatre.

Council regeneration chief Councillor Shaukat Ali has said the demolition application will not impact on discussions with the campaigners over the building’s future.

The council has said it would prefer a new “leisure building” to take its place.