25-year lease needed to save Dudley Hippodrome
A 25-year lease is needed if Dudley Hippodrome is to be saved, the group behind its planned restoration has said.
The rescue of the historic building is hanging in the balance and could collapse if Dudley Council does not agree to extend the lease.
Black Country Hippodrome, the group trying to save the Castle Hill landmark, has issued a plea for an extension to its lease which members say is currently too short to attract the necessary investment.
Members met for crunch talks with council bosses this week when they asked for a 20-year lease on top of the five-year agreement already in place.
There are real fears that the restoration will not be able to go ahead without it. Around £5 million is needed to bring the Hippodrome back to its former glory.
The group revealed earlier this month its fundraising attempts had come to a 'standstill'.
Campaigners trying to restore the famous building insist they should be given the longer lease as long as they can prove they are meeting their targets, which they insist they have for the first year of the project.
Dudley Council confirmed the request would be considered.
Steve Daniels, from Black Country Hippodrome, said: "What we asked for was that the side lease should state that a lease of 20 years would be granted if the critical milestones were met and with no break clause in the new lease, that then would give us a 25-year lease which includes the five years we have now.
"The critical milestones are phased over five years. We have complied with year one, the main part of year one was to show that what funding sources we had looked at and produced paperwork to show that."
The long battle to re-open the Hippodrome as a theatre looked to have been won when the group was given the keys to the building last year.
Many obstacles have had be negotiated, including proving the revamped venue would not rival Wolverhampton's Grand Theatre.
Minor work has even begun but the project is in danger of coming to a halt.
Dudley Council leader Patrick Harley said earlier this month: "It’s hoped that the milestones agreed by the Hippodrome board can be achieved so that we can move on to the next phase."
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