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English Heritage backs leisure plans for Brighton Hippodrome

by Jak Phillips | 04 Apr 2014

Ambitious proposals to redevelop the Grade II listed Brighton Hippodrome into a leisure complex have been backed by English Heritage, which said this could be the “final chance” to save the 117-year-old structure.

Alaska Development Consultants, working on behalf of an institutional client of Helix Property Advisors, has submitted a planning application to Brighton & Hove City Council to redevelop the theatre into a leisure complex housing an eight-screen Vue cinema and four restaurants.

An independent feasibility study, carried out at the council’s request, concluded this was the only viable option for the building against other proposals including a casino and a theatre.

However, Alaska’s plans have met with opposition from groups including the Theatres Trust – which wants to see the building return to its former use as a performance space – while a petition started in October to keep the site as a theatre attracted 1,000 signatures.

Despite conceding that the cinema plan would “cause harm to the significance of the building,” English Heritage inspector of historic buildings and areas Samantha Johnson believes Alaska’s proposals are the only lifeline for the Frank Matcham-designed Hippodrome.

She told the BBC: “They are likely to represent a final opportunity to save the Hippodrome, and would conserve the aesthetic values associated with Matcham's phase of works.”

"The building is in a grave condition and is on English Heritage's Buildings At Risk Register," she added, concluding that the scheme represented “the best chance to conserve this very vulnerable grade II* listed building, and that its conservation is a principal public benefit.”

Having first opened as an ice rink in 1897, the building soon switched to a circus before closing in 1902. It reopened a year later as a theatre, becoming a bingo hall in 1967, as it remained until closing in 2007.

“The plans have developed well through widespread collaboration and Alaska feels that the solution is one that all parties can be proud of,” said Alaska development manager Chris Moore. “The design team, led by Russ Drage Architects, has worked tirelessly to create a proposal that satisfies the extensive requirements involved with a scheme centred on such a well-loved, listed property like the Hippodrome.”

Alaska advised that building restoration work could start on site as early as next summer, should the application be successful.

Ambitious proposals to redevelop the Grade II listed Brighton Hippodrome into a leisure complex have been backed by English Heritage, which said this could be the “final chance” to save the 117-year-old structure. Alaska Development Consultants, working on behalf of an institutional client of Helix Property Advisors, has submitted a planning application to Brighton & Hove City Council to redevelop the theatre into a leisure complex housing an eight-screen Vue
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Having first opened as an ice rink in 1897, the building soon switched to a circus and has since been a theatre and bingo hall, while Alaska's vision would add cinema to that list / Alaska Development Consultants
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