Objections lodged against plans to demolish Dudley Hippodrome

Dozens of objections have been lodged against plans to demolish the landmark Dudley Hippodrome and build a £25 million university park in its place.

Dudley Hippodrome now
Dudley Hippodrome now

Dudley Council submitted a planning application earlier this year to knock down the derelict 1930s-building on Castle Hill. It was last used in 2009 as a bingo hall and since then has fallen into disrepair.

But supporters of the former theatre are unhappy with the plans to destroy the 'impressive' Art Deco venue which boasts more than 70 years of entertainment history.

Dudley Hippodrome Development Trust has long fought the council's plans to destroy the Hippodrome.

In the group's objection to the plans, they said: "Arts Council England has just identified Dudley as one of the “Priority Places” in the UK where arts and culture are significantly underfunded by ACE, and is consequently substantially boosting their investment in Dudley to help the locality grow their arts and culture offering in order to benefit their communities, which is great news for everyone.

"So can this be the right time for Dudley Council to press ahead with their application to demolish the area’s largest single arts and culture asset, the Dudley Hippodrome - the only purpose-built professional theatre in the area?"

Theatres Trust has also put forward an objection, saying: "Theatres Trust has met with the council several times over the last few years to discuss both the Hippodrome and the wider issue of culture within Dudley. We have strongly encouraged the council on all occasions to consider the opportunities provided by the Hippodrome.

Dudley Hippodrome was once a popular venue in the town

"At a meeting earlier this year the topic of venues that offer a mix of music, comedy, theatre and other events such as conferencing, sports events and the emerging e-sports market was discussed.

"It is disappointing the council does not appear to have sought to progress such discussions or proactively engaged with other compatible operators, or undertaken a feasibility or viability study."

People living in the West Midlands – and across the UK – have also urged planners to reject the application.

Mark Revis, who lives in Teignmouth, Devon, said: "Replacing this historic building that can't be recreated with modern construction or be replaced would be a disaster. Do reconsider what game of a building you have and how this could become a huge asset if re-purposed."

Amanda Mahoney from Rugeley added: "Once refurbished, the Hippodrome would be a tremendous asset to the town, bringing in visitors much needed revenue and jobs. Building a university in its place, which is totally the wrong place for it, would not be of any benefit whatsoever to the town, as there are plenty of higher education buildings around."

Historic England, however, has not put forward any objection to the plans, and has said that the project would enhance the significance of the nearby Dudley Castle, the listed Dudley zoo buildings and the appearance of the Castle Hill Conservation Area by opening up views of the castle.

If approved, the new education facility is expected to be up and running by autumn of 2024 and will be around the corner from the Black Country and Marches Institute of Technology, which is due to start teaching higher education students science, technology, engineering and maths this year.

Education delivered at the site will be led by the University of Worcester and specialise in health.

The schemes are both part of a wider regeneration project across the borough which also includes extending the West Midlands Metro from Wednesbury to Brierley Hill via Dudley and building the new Dudley Interchange which will link the bus and tram network.

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