Dudley Hippodrome saga set to continue until September

The Dudley Driverless Vehicles Consortium have been given a further nine months to finalise plans for the Castle Hill site.

Council leaders originally gave DDVC a deadline of January to present their vision for the land, which currently houses the former theatre, with a view to a final decision on the comanies hoping it would put to bed a saga which has lasted a number of years. However the group 

However it's now been revealed that the company has asked for an extension until September - something the authority looks set to allow.

The move will anger many locals who were hoping for an end to the Hippodrome saga, which has been ongoing for a number of years. Campaigners who still hope for a future for the venue as a working theatre have met the news with a mixture of hope and anger, citing the councils inflexibility with supporting their campaign as 'appalling' in light of the possibility of a further 36 weeks of grace being given to DDVC. Supporters have suggested that councillors are trying to put the borough's reputation before the needs of its community.

Dudley Council officials said in a new report that, as there had been "no other credible proposals" for the Hippodrome site, it was prepared to give DDVC more time to work on its project. The report said:

"It is considered...that extending the timeline relating to the DDVC proposal will facilitate a much more comprehensive and competitive proposal for Towns Fund resources while identifying a long-term and positive use for the site in question.

"Accordingly, it is recommended that the DDVC proposal be provided with additional time, until September 2020, in order to develop proposals for the site in question, to bring it in line with submission of the Towns Fund Investment Plan."

The famous former Hippodrome has been closed since 2012 and was last used as a bingo hall. During its heyday it was amongst the largest regional theatres in the UK, hosting the likes of Judy Garland, Ken Dodd and Laurel and Hardy. 

A community-led campaign to re-open it failed when Dudley Council ruled the group would not be able to come up with the necessary funds. The supporters group replied to this, accusing the council of deliberately offering a short lease to them which made them ineligible for a number of key pots of money.

Councillors are due to make a final decision on January 6th.


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