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Driverless vehicle centre set for green light on Dudley Hippodrome site

By Richard Guttridge | Dudley | Business | Published:

A driverless vehicle company looks set to get the nod to create a testing centre on the site of Dudley Hippodrome, with the council leader declaring he is "extremely happy" with their plans.

Dudley Hippodrome

The Dudley Driverless Vehicles Consortium (DDVC) was given an extra nine months in January to finalise their plans for the site, to the frustration of campaigners who want the famous building to be preserved and used as a theatre.

It was announced last week that the Hippodrome is to be knocked down and replaced with a "university park", with the driverless vehicle centre to feature as part of the regeneration.

The updated plans are the latest twist in the saga over the future of the Castle Hill former theatre which has dragged on for more than a decade.

Council leader Patrick Harley has gone head-to-head with campaigners over the building, and has insisted it is time to move on and have it demolished.

Infamous town eyesore office block Cavendish House was recently bulldozed after years of trying, heralding the start of a new era for Dudley. It will be replaced by a multi-million pound shopping and leisure development.

Happy

A Very Light Rail centre will also be built near Castle Hill, close to Dudley Zoo, as part of the impressive transformation of the area.

A fresh report on the driverless vehicle centre is set to go before cabinet in the next few weeks ahead of a decision but Councillor Harley said the signs were positive.

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He said: "I'm extremely happy. They will make use of the Institute of Technology site alongside the Very Light Rail innovation centre.

"There has been so much doom and gloom, everything has been put on hold because of the pandemic but we're still plodding on. We are trying to do what we can where we can."

The decision to give DDVC more time to finalise their plans for the Hippodrome site was criticised by the Theatres Trust, which wants the building to be saved.

Council bosses in Dudley had been clear they favoured the plans to bring jobs and investment to the town, and that they didn't see a realistic future for the Hippodrome, which was last used as a bingo hall in 2009.

Richard Guttridge

By Richard Guttridge
Investigations Editor - @RichG_star

Investigations Editor for the Express & Star.

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