Dudley Hippodrome to be cleared for 'driverless car testing site'
Dudley Hippodrome is set to be turned into a centre for testing driverless vehicles after the plan was chosen ahead of a bid to re-open it as a theatre.
The venue steeped in history but it now to become a thriving base to help develop the future of the motor industry.
The blow to the hopes of the Dudley Hippodrome Community Group which campaigned to save the jazz era venue could be the final nail in the coffin of the building that first opened its doors in 1938.
A report to the council’s cabinet is recommending a proposal by the Dudley Driverless Vehicles Consortium to use the land as control centre for a high tech autonomous vehicle demonstration route.
The project is estimated to cost £9 million and is backed by the West Midlands Combined Authority’s Transport for the West Midlands group.
Council officers say the consortium’s proposal could see an autonomous route providing a commercial transport link between the Dudley Zoo, Living Museum and Canal and Tunnels Trust as well as a link to Dudley College Town Centre Campus.
The report states: “The objective is for Dudley to become a key national centre for autonomous vehicles.”
In rejecting a £12 million proposal by Dudley Hippodrome Community Group to refurbish the existing building as a theatre and arts centre, officers dismissed the scheme.
They said: “There is no clear and cogent plan as to how funding is to be secured, no consideration as to how audience is to be captured and grown and no assessment of the potential for competition between other nearby venues.
“The group accept that they have no experience of developing and delivering a major capital project. In virtually all areas of the submission, the proposal is weak.”
The report comes after the council took back of control of the Hippodrome in February this year after it said a similar plan to open its a theatre had failed to meet significant mileposts.
The council brought the building, which once attracted national and international talent, in 2009 after it closed as a bingo hall.
Dudley cabinet will now decide if they accept council officers’ recommendations at their meeting on December 6.
By George Makin
Local Democracy Reporter