Theatre group pins hopes on business plan

A CAMPAIGN group hoping to save a former Dudley theatre has submitted a new business plan to Dudley Council, as planning officers revise their plans for a proposed temporary car park in its place.

The Friends of Dudley Hippodrome group has presented the detailed 28-page document in a bid to retain, refurbish and open the former Castle Hill theatre as a community venue, which will be run as a social enterprise if given the go-ahead.

The council-owned building, which closed as a bingo hall in 2009, has been pinpointed for demolition by the council as part of the ongoing multi-million pound regeneration of Castle Hill – with the area set to be used as a temporary car park for Dudley Zoo.

The campaigners originally submitted a business plan in September, but were asked to provide further details about the financing of the venue – which is bigger than Wolverhampton Grand Theatre – which a specialist consultant is now viewing.

As part of the fundraising, the group plan to launch a ‘sponsor-a-seat’ scheme, used in similar theatre restoration projects around the UK and are suggesting supporters sponsor-a-seat for £250 or pay £100 to become a friend for a year.

The group’s latest bid comes as the council alters its proposals for the temporary car park, reducing the number of spaces to 92 from the originally proposed 120.

The new plans also show an increase of disability spaces from six to 13 and include new planters and landscaping.

Councillor Shaukat Ali, cabinet member for regeneration, said: “We have received a proposal from the Friends group, which is currently being looked at by an independent expert.

“Once we have feedback on the proposal we will be speaking to the group.”

Anyone interested in the sponsor- a-seat scheme should contact Friends chairman, Geoff Fitzpatrick by emailing ghf itzpatrick@ hotmail.co.uk or calling 07875 901369.

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