Curtain looks to have fallen for Dudley Hippodrome

Campaigners staged a protest outside the council house before this evenings cabinet meeting

A lease given to campaigners for Dudley’s former Hippodrome building is to be terminated – as council chiefs vowed “exciting plans” would be put forward to transform the key gateway site into the town.

Dudley Council’s cabinet heard Black Country Hippodrome Ltd, which was handed a five-year lease to the building by the local authority in December 2016, had failed to achieve key milestones, despite being given extra time. It approved proposals at a meeting tonight to start legal proceedings to get the keys back for the building.

Officers have also been instructed to draw up a report outlining the options for the future use of the site. Councillor Patrick Harley, leader of the council, said:

“The Hippodrome sits on a key gateway site leading into the town centre. Unfortunately, its days as a theatre, which it has not been since the 1960s lets not forget, have long gone. Now is the time that we need to be realistic and accept that.

“The building has a wonderful history and we are very proud of our past - but at the same time we are committed to forging Dudley’s future, and at the moment the building is nothing but an eyesore.

“If we had the belief the campaign group was able to deliver what it was promising, then we would have been happy to have signed a longer lease. But the fact is they have not met four of the five milestones within the agreed timescales which they put down on paper themselves, just a year into the lease.

“We cannot allow the building to remain empty and an eyesore for another 15 to 20 years. So we’re taking action now. It will be back in our hands and we will be looking to draw up some exciting plans for the site. We want to do something with it which folk in Dudley will be proud of.”

A report which went before the cabinet said the campaign group drafted five key milestones to be achieved by August last year as a condition of the lease.

But four of those – completing and documenting a feasible funding strategy; providing that funding strategy to the landlord; carrying out a complete feasibility study on the project; and starting to carry out building surveys and drawing up a proposed scheme – had not been achieved in time. This is despite the council granting the group an extra three months to show it could meet them, the report says.

However Black Country Hippodrome Ltd dispute the viability of some of those claims. Speaking to Black Country Radio, Paul Collins said the company felt they had 'met all of the milestones laid out to them with the exception of those that were now impossible because of access to the building'. Speaking on the steps of the council house ahead of the cabinet meeting, Gary Sawers, a member of the campaign group, added: 

"I love my Black Country Heritage and the Hippodrome means an awful lot to us all. It brings our community together and the thought of destroying that heritage is unbelievable".

At the meeting, the cabinet unanimously approved recommendations to instruct the authority’s legal team to start procedures “leading to forfeiture of the lease”. A further report will go before the cabinet at a meeting later in the year setting out proposals for the future use of the building and site.


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