Express & Star

Council to decide tonight whether Dudley Hippodrome is knocked down

The fate of the beloved Dudley Hippodrome will be decided tonight at Dudley Council meeting.

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DUDLEY COPYRIGHT TIM STURGESS EXPRESS AND STAR......17/11/2021 Gv of the Dudley Hippodrome.The council want to knock it down..

The iconic arts building on Castle Hill could be demolished to make way for a university park, if councillors give the go ahead tonight at this month's Development Control Committee meeting.

But campaigners trying to save the Hippodrome are planning to protest outside Dudley Town Hall, where the meeting is due to be held, in a desperate last attempt to save the historic venue.

So what's happened with the Hippodrome over the years?

Here's a recap ahead of tonight's meeting.

1938 - Dudley Hippodrome was built on the site of Dudley Opera House, which was destroyed by a fire in 1936. It remained open as a variety theatre until 1964, showcasing top acts including Laurel and Hardy.

1964 - After the theatre closed The Hippodrome was used as a bingo hall by Gala Bingo, and was kept in good condition during this time.

2009 - Gala Bingo shut down, leaving the building empty.

2010 - Dudley Council took ownership of the Hippodrome with plans to redevelop the site as a new entrance for Dudley Zoo – but this turned out not to be needed. The council has been trying to find a use for the building ever since, with it falling more and more into disrepair each year.

2014 - Council chiefs fork out more than £20,000 on the Hippodrome after vandals damaged steel doors and security fencing – and they beef up their security measures.

2016 - Friends of Dudley Hippodrome, the main group campaigning for the building's survival, were given the keys to the facility in order to clean it up - but they were taken back by Dudley Council when the local authority ruled volunteers would not be able to generate the necessary cash for its refurbishment.

2019 - The community plea for the council to step in after the building was subjected to even more vandal attacks.

December 2016 - Hopeful news for the Hippodrome as the council decides to lease it to community group The Black Country Hippodrome Ltd (BCHL). BCHL appointed an architect to draw up plans for its vision of a restored Hippodrome reopened as a cultural hub for the community. Unfortunately, the project lacked support from Dudley Council, and failed to get off the ground.

2018 - The council decides to take a bid from the Dudley Driverless Vehicles Consortium to turn the Hippodrome into a driverless vehicle test centre.

September 2020 - The plans for a driverless vehicle test centre are abandoned and the council announces plans to demolish the theatre and replace is with an education centre as part of a new multi-million pound university park, due to open in 2024.

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