CAMPAIGNERS are demanding councillors listen to people power and save a Dudley landmark from being flattened by bulldozers.
The future of the Hippodrome on Castle Hill hangs in the balance after Dudley Zoo announced it no longer wanted to build a new visitor centre on the site, a plan which was at the centre of a council application to demolish the former theatre.
Members of the Friends of The Hippodrome took advantage of last week’s warm weather to give the building a coat of paint and issue a fresh demand to Dudley Council for a reprieve.
Garry Sawers, from the friends group, who fears the Hippodrome will be turned into a car park, said: “The powers that be are finally starting to realise the people own the Hippodrome and people are starting to make it known they want to keep it.
“They are finally starting to wake up to the fact the Hippodrome is more important than a car park.”
Dudley cabinet member for regeneration, cllr Judy Foster, said: “Whether this is a historic building or not is a matter of opinion. English Heritage was approached a couple of years ago and asked to list the building - they refused.
“It is clear that opinion is much more divided than has been suggested. I have also received representations from individual residents and businesses in support of demolition.
“We have a population of over 300,000 people in the borough, to the best of my knowledge the events and protests that the friends group have held at the building or in the town centre have attracted between 20 and 30 people.”
One person whose opinion is clear on the issue is entertainer Ken Dodd who told The News: “This is shattering and devastating news. Dudley Hippodrome, which I have played on many occasions, was the vibrant soul of Dudley - the very hub of the town and its cultural heritage. The meeting place of ideas - the character of the town, and artistes like myself have loved the wonderful Dudley audiences who have always been second to none.
“We must all join the campaign to save this beautiful theatre and preserve its history for generations to come.”
In August last year Dudley planners deferred a decision on demolition but unless a new plan to save the building emerges it may only be a stay of execution.
Cllr Foster said: “While we will continue to seek approval to demolish the building, we have always said that this is in the event of no viable alternative coming forward and our commitment remains to consider any deliverable proposal with an open mind.
“We intend to take this decision before the end of the calendar year as we cannot allow the building to deteriorate any further.”
Cllr Foster denied the site would become a car park but instead was most likely to become an “event or amenity space” while the council looks for a suitable building project.
She also denied the zoo had pulled out and was “simply exploring other options” however a spokesperson for Dudley Zoological Gardens confirmed they no longer had any interest in the Hippodrome site.