“THIS is not the end” say the disappointed Hippodrome campaigners who are set to lose their lease of the former Dudley town centre theatre.

Black Country Hippodrome Ltd (BCHL) have spent years working on plans to restore the dilapidated building and bring it back to its former glory.

But Dudley Council’s cabinet decided on Thursday night (February 8) to start legal proceedings to get the Hippodrome keys back from BCHL after the group were said to have failed to achieve key milestones given to them by the authority as part of a five year lease.

A spokesman for BCHL told the News: “We are obviously disappointed by the cabinet’s decision, but we cannot say we’re surprised. It was very clear that was always their intention.

“The way it was presented to the cabinet put us in a very negative light, but you could tell that the officers and many of the elected members are dead against the Hippodrome ever being revived.

“But this is not the end. Even after the decision is published it still has to go through a lengthy legal process.

“The outcome is also being challenged by the council’s scrutiny committee, meaning it will be looked into to see if it was made correctly. That will all take some time.

“So there is still a possibility that the decision could be overturned.

“It is a regrettable decision, but we will continue with the work we have been doing, as well as explore the other avenues available to us.”

A report which went before the cabinet said BCHL drafted five key milestones to be achieved by August 2017 as a condition of the lease. But the report said four of those had not been achieved in time, despite granting the group an extra three months to show it could meet them.

Dudley News:

Council officers have now been instructed to draw up a report outlining the options for the future use of the site.

Councillor Patrick Harley, leader of the council, said the authority has “exciting” plans for the building.

He said: “The Hippodrome sits on a key gateway site leading into the town centre. Unfortunately, its days as a theatre, which it has not been since the 1960s, have long gone.

“Now is the time that we need to be realistic and accept that.

“The building has a wonderful history and we are very proud of our past. But at the same time we are committed to forging Dudley’s future, and at the moment the building is nothing but an eyesore.

“If we had the belief the campaign group was able to deliver what it was promising, then we would have been happy to have signed a longer lease.

“But the fact is they have not met four of the five milestones within the agreed timescales which they put down on paper themselves, just a year into the lease.

“We cannot allow the building to remain empty and an eyesore for another 15 to 20 years. So we’re taking action now, we’re taking it back.

“It will be back in our hands and we will be looking to draw up some exciting plans for the site. We want to do something with it which folk in Dudley will be proud of.”