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Minister refuses Brighton Hippodrome inquiry

Words: Laura Edgar

Planning minister Brandon Lewis has rejected a request for a public inquiry into a cinema and restaurant proposal for Brighton Hippodrome.

The decision to reject the call-in has left The Theatres Trust, which hoped for restoration of the performance space, disappointed. The Trust was supported by a 2,738-signature petition, drawn up after Brighton and Hove City Council’s planning committee approved an application in July to subdivide the Grade II listed building into an eight-screen cinema and restaurant.

Brighton and the Hippodrome have been let down by this decision," said Theatres Trust director Mhora Samuel. "Unless the developers reconsider their scheme we will have lost the potential to stage lyric theatre and performance in the Hippodrome’s unique theatrical space. It could have been a real asset to Brighton’s cultural scene.

“We accept the minister’s decision, and recognise that the applications will now be left to Brighton and Hove City Council to determine. However, we have always believed that the applications raised issues of national significance, given that the Hippodrome is a Grade II listed building and a very rare national example of a circus/variety theatre.”

When the lease became available in 2007, the trust worked with Live Nation to try to convert Brighton Hippodrome into a live music venue. However, due to Bright and Hove City Council’s licensing policies, the opportunity was lost.

The Theatres Trust have also said that they will continue to work hard to “demonstrate the importance and value of our most valuable theatre building” in an attempt to a secure a better future for theatres.

Mark Price, the Trust’s theatres at risk advisor, said: “National planning policy favours the sustainable reuse of listed buildings as cultural facilities to promote economic growth and cultural well-being. Call-in would have confirmed the government’s commitment to protecting Grade II buildings and theatres as heritage assets for the nation. This decision demonstrates that we need to do much more to step up our work and raise awareness of the value theatres bring to the economic success and cultural vitality of towns and cities across the UK.”

The Trust said it plans to continue working with the council and its partners to “secure a fully reversible scheme which makes the reuse of the building as a theatre more likely".

Image courtesy of Bev Norton