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DUDLEY: Hippodrome set to be replaced by university centre

DUDLEY: Hippodrome set to be replaced by university centre

Credit Google Street View

An iconic theatre is set to be demolished by Dudley council despite protesters campaigning for the building to be kept.

At a development control committee on November 17, plans were approved by a majority – prompting an outcry from the public gallery.

The plans recommended that the Art Deco theatre be knocked down, along with the neighbouring former skating rink, to be replaced with a multi-million pound university campus specialising in nursing and healthcare courses.

The neighbouring former ice rink is currently used as a martial arts centre, and part of it was also used until recently as the former JB’s nightclub.

Tom Clarke, national planning adviser for the Theatres Trust, who spoke on behalf of the supporters at the meeting, said: “It shouldn’t be seen as a problem but an investment with potentially huge return.

“If you make a decision to demolish the Hippodrome, it would be the worst possible decision you could make and would reflect poorly on the council.”

Dudley council had been given £25m by the government to assist in the build, but the decision still needs to be confirmed by Michael Gove, the secretary of state for levelling up, communities and housing.

In total, 76 letters of objection were received by the council from supporters of the Hippodrome, who want it to rejuvenated into an entertainment venue.

Concerns were raised about the loss of an important building, and objections to the design of the proposed college buildings to replace it. Residents who objected also said the plans were not befitting of an important gateway to the town.

Protesters were heard saying “ridiculous” and “shameful” to the councillors.  Andrea Goddard, chair of the development control committee, adjourned the meeting temporarily to quell the public gallery.

Some members of the public were removed from the public gallery.

Dudley Hippodrome, first opened in 1938, hosted stage stars such as Laurel & Hardy and Bing Crosby. It shut in 1964 and became a gala bingo until that closed in 2009.

It has been empty ever since despite attempts to restore the building to its former glory.

Cllr Elaine Taylor (Labs, Netherton, Woodside & St Andrew’s) said: “Sadly this is an example of yet another iconic building being allowed to deteriorate.”

All councillors voted to approve the plans to demolish the Hippodrome, bar Councillor Taylor who objected. Cllr Shaneila Mughal (Labs, St Thomas’s Ward) abstained.

Words: Rhi Storer, Local Democracy Reporter


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