Campaigners mark Dudley theatre's birthday which may be its last

Dudley News: Campaigners mark Dudley Hippodrome's 75th birthday - but gear up for the next round of their battle to save the landmark building from demolition Campaigners mark Dudley Hippodrome's 75th birthday - but gear up for the next round of their battle to save the landmark building from demolition

CAMPAIGNERS gathered to mark the 75th anniversary of a Dudley landmark which faces an uncertain future in 2014.

The Hippodrome theatre on Castle Hill is facing demolition if redevelopment plans are approved but a determined group of activists say the building should be saved and restored.

Supporters of the Save The Dudley Hippo campaign gathered on December 19 to mark what could be the building’s final birthday.

Speaking at the anniversary event on the steps of the theatre, Black Country musician and artist Gaz Sawyers, said: “Today I felt the love and the vibes of the place and I'm feeling very optimistic for the near future. The people showed today that they want this to happen.”

The theatre was converted to a bingo hall in the 1980s and has been vacant for nearly five years but its supporters say they have public opinion on their side and a petition containing thousands of names proves people want the building preserved.

Mr Sawyers said: “The Hippodrome can truly be the pride of Dudley and the Black Country and I will gladly dedicate the rest of my life making it happen.

“I am sure Dudley Council will act on the electorate’s best interest, acknowledge 30,0000 signatures and soon give us the key.”

Last August Dudley Council planners deferred a decision on demolishion to make way for a proposed new visitor and education centre for neighbouring Dudley Zoo.

Dudley Council says there is no money available for restoration and preservation of the theatre and the campaign group has failed to produce a sustainable business plan for its future.

However English Heritage argues plans to redevelop the site are being railroaded through.

In a letter to the council English Heritage said: "It appears that to rush through plans for demolition with no firm plans for redevelopment would be unduly expeditious and contrary to both local and national planning guidance."

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