Those campaigning to save Brighton’s old theatre have welcomed a report into the Old Town, which says the repair and reuse of the Hippodrome presents ‘a major opportunity’ to revitalise the area.
This was one of the key conclusions of a report adopted by the city council’s economic development and culture committee last week (March 9).
Campaigners, who have been working for three-and-a-half years to bring the Hippodrome back to life, were ‘gratified’ that the theatre’s importance was fully recognised in the report.
The character statement about the Old Town Conservation Area (OTCA) describes the area between East Street, West Street, North Street and the seafront, which defines the layout of the medieval town.
It highlights the rich diversity of the area’s architectural and historic interest but is critical of the changes that have taken place in an ‘uncoordinated and piecemeal way’.
In particular, the condition of the Hippodrome has a negative effect on the character and appearance of the area, the report said.
The report said: “The conservation area contains a number of key buildings that make a positive contribution to the area’s special historic or architectural interest but are unfortunately vacant. This tends to lead to a lack of maintenance and consequent decay that places the building at risk and can blight the vitality of its surroundings.
“The most significant such case in the Old Town is that of the Brighton Hippodrome where the structure is now seriously at risk.
“The Hippodrome occupies a large parcel of land with a long frontage on Middle Street and a service yard entrance on Ship Street and its condition is having a negative effect on the character and appearance of the conservation area.
“Loss of significant historic fabric or economic potential would be a threat to the conservation area’s special interest and to the surviving evidence of Brighton’s development as a seaside resort in the late 19th and early 20th century.”
Historic England added the whole of the conservation area to its ‘at risk’ register in September 2016. The Hippodrome was already on the register and has been number one on the Theatres Trust’s list of Theatre Buildings at Risk (TBAR) for the past four years.
Brighton Hippodrome CIC, which sponsored the report on behalf of the council, has worked with architects and developers to prepare a scheme for restoration of the historic venue.
This involves building above the service yard to overcome what the report describes as the ‘negative effect’ of its appearance on Ship Street.
Plans for a new ‘lane’ between the Hippodrome and Dukes Lane are also being explored.
Brighton and Hove City Council will now prepare a management plan for the Old Town Conservation Area. This will create a framework to regenerate the city’s ancient heart.
To read the report in full, click here.