A unanimous decision by Dudley Council’s Planning Committee to defer a decision on demolishing the historic 1930s theatre building until further investigations had taken place has been met with relief in the town.
Geoff Fitzpatrick, Chairman of the Friends of Dudley Hippodrome, said after Monday’s meeting that he was a man of mixed emotions.
“I’m totally relieved that for the time being at least action to demolish the theatre building has been stopped. But I’m also very surprised that the order to demolish didn’t go through.
“Despite all the hard work we have put into the campaign to save this wonderful old building, we thought our number was up.
“But we live to fight another day and with the backing and support of so many people from all quarters, we believe that the Hippodrome will once again become a live theatre venue.” In the Council Chamber on Monday evening criticism was levelled at Dudley Council from both English Heritage and the Theatre's Trust for not satisfying the criteria to knock the building down and said more information and consultation was needed.
Tim Wright, Conservative councillor for Gornal and a past foreman of the council’s Development Control Committee, said at the beginning of the meeting he was open minded about the decision to demolish the theatre building.
“As a council we have to do what is right for Dudley and on this occasion my colleagues and I felt that not all the avenues of investigation and consultation had been exhausted, and on that basis it was a unanimous vote to stop the demolition until such avenues had been fully explored.” The Hippodrome was built as a twice nightly theatre in 1938 and replaced the Opera House, destroyed by fire in 1936. In 1964 it became a bingo hall, and it has remained empty since 2009.
The Hippodrome was purchased by Dudley Council with a view to demolishing it as part of the regeneration of the Castle Hill area.
But in 2012 local campaigners established the Friends of Dudley Hippodrome in a bid to restore it to its former glory as a theatre.