Express & Star

Dudley Hippodrome redevelopment: Business owner won't budge without 'suitable' offer from council

The owner of a banqueting suite next to the seemingly doomed Dudley Hippodrome says he will only move out if the local authority's offer is right for his business.

Gurminder Samra, owner of Castle Hill Banqueting & Conference Suite, pictured with his daughters

Gurminder Samra has run Castle Hill suites, a banqueting and entertainment venue, since 2019, and Dudley Council wants to move him out, knock down the Hippodrome and re-develop the area with a £25m learning campus.

The 47-year-old said a suitable offer for the building, in the old JB's nightclub, has not been made and alternative venues offered – including one in Oswestry – have proved unsuitable.

Dudley Council indicated on Wednesday preliminary work is imminent to secure the Hippodrome site ahead of demolition. The 85-year-old building was a Mecca for the entertainment industry between 1938 and 1964 but has stood vacant since 2009.

Mr Samra is off work with stress caused by the Hippodrome saga and uncertainty over the area's future, with the nearby Metro works also causing disruption.

He said: "It has caused me headaches and nightmares. It is difficult enough to run a business anyway coming out of Covid and with the cost of living meaning everything has gone up and less people are coming out.

"We are covering the bills but that is about it – I have a couple of other businesses as well but have been in the entertainment industry for years and want to stay in it. I am looking to move the family back to Dudley and expand, not close the banqueting suite - although moving would be an option.

"So far we have been offered two valuations that just about cover what we paid for the venue, and a number of buildings that are unsuitable due to size and location. I would welcome a compulsory purchase order so a price could be decided independently."

In March, councillors were told there was a shortfall of £3.5m in funding for the university project although the scheme had already received £25m of Levelling Up money.

Dave Homer from the Dudley Hippodrome Development Trust accused the council of 'railroading' through the scheme despite the shortfall in funding and them ignoring strict planning conditions.

He said: "They are in contravention of planning laws which say demolition work can't be undertaken until a contract for the work has been executed yet they seem to be wanting to bring in the bulldozers right away.

"A community area outlined in the original planning application has been changed to a diagnostic centre and the council is in dispute with the NHS over this. Despite what [council leader] Patrick Harley says there is a lot of red tape to get through before anything happens to the building."