Dudley Hippodrome campaigners urged to fight on despite driverless vehicle scheme
Dudley Hippodrome's campaigners should fight on to save the historic venue despite their plans being dealt a major blow.
This is the message from heritage group, The Theatres Trust, which has supported attempted to revive the boarded-up Hippodrome.
Controversial plans to turn the hippodrome into a £9 million hub for driverless vehicles were moved forward at a meeting last night.
Dudley Council's cabinet passed a motion allowing council officers to discuss the plans with a consortium further.
Another bid, by the Dudley Hippodrome Community Group to turn the landmark site into a theatre, was rejected.
The Theatres Trust had previously placed the Hippodrome on its 'at risk' register and urged action to preserve it.
WATCH: Theatres Trust's campaign for the Hippodrome
Theatres Advisor, Tom Stickland, said: "Last night’s decision is hugely disappointing for everyone who has been working to bring Dudley Hippodrome back to into use for the community, but some hope still remains.
"While it is frustrating the council did not give the campaign group the same opportunity to prove their business plan, this 12-month period does give them the time to strengthen their campaign and continue to build support for Dudley Hippodrome, should the driverless vehicle proposal prove unviable.
"The theatre is situated in a prominent part of Dudley that has been highlighted for regeneration – a revitalised Dudley Hippodrome could make a significant social and economic contribution to the local area."
Council leaders felt the driverless vehicles bid was a better option for the future of the site, built in 1938.
Dudley Council leader Qadar Zada said: "The heart was with the hippodrome (theatre plans), but the head means we have to take into context what the report says."
Under the plans, the Dudley Zoo, the Black Country Living Museum and Dudley Canal Trust would also be linked up with driverless vehicles.
Paul Windchurch, chairman of the Dudley Hippodrome Friends Group, said: "I think it is a bit disgraceful the way Dudley Hippodrome has been handled."
The Dudley Driverless Vehicles Consortium has been given 12 months to come up with a suitable bid.