A new life for the Brighton Hippodrome

The stage is set for a redevelopment of The Brighton Hippodrome

The stage is set for a redevelopment of The Brighton Hippodrome

For a city that likes to think of itself as ahead of the curve, Brighton&Hove  can be remarkably resistant to change.

The seafront is littered with stalled projects, from derelict Black Rock in the east to the appalling King Alfred leisure centre on the western fringes of Hove.

This week the metaphorical flags were put out to celebrate yet another development that won’t be happening. The Pavilion Gardens Cafe, in the shadows of George IV’s funhouse, has been saved from the bulldozers following a public outcry. To be fair, the public, in this instance, were right. The cafe is much-loved and well used by all walks of life in the city.

The worrying uncertainty over its future arose last year when the management at the Royal Pavilion Estate’s unveiled a masterplan for the area.

As part of the bid of Heritage Lottery funding, it was suggested the cafe could be housed in a new building as part of a visitor centre.

This plan, it seems, has been abandoned.

As ever, all sides are claiming victory. Success has many fathers but failure is an orphan.

 “The Sewell family are delighted and relieved that uncertainty over the long term future of the café building and patio is at an end. We look forward to a new lease that secures our future in the gardens, where our café can form part of the valued heritage of the estate as a whole.”

David Sewell, proprietor of Pavilion Gardens Café

“The Friends look forward to working in partnership with the bid team to ensure the lottery bid is successful and the whole estate can develop in ways that serve all of those who love and value it. We are delighted to be recognised as partners in this process and will ensure that the community’s voice is heard as the estate becomes something we all are proud of.”

Paul Levy, on behalf of the Friends of the Café

“I’m delighted we have reached an agreement to work together. This project is vital to the heart of the city and needs the input of the Pavilion Gardens Café community to help shape a Royal Pavilion Estate for the 21st century. We will strive to preserve and recognise the contribution of the 20th century in the form of the cafe buildings and patio which are clearly so precious to so many.”

Brighton and Hove chief executive Penny Thompson, CBE

 “We need to develop the Royal Pavilion Estate, including the café, patio and Friends community, as something fantastic and sustainable for the 21st Century. I’m very pleased we are working together to find productive solutions to some of the challenges currently faced by the estate.”

Andrew Comben, CEO, Brighton Dome and Brighton Festival

Pavilion gardens Cafe

Flushed with success, campaigners have now taken the battle to the would-be developers of another site in the city.

Alaska Development Consultants want to turn the Grade II listed Brighton Hippodrome into an eight-screen cinema.

The £20 million plans will be considered by the council next month.

But a grassroots protest group called Our Brighton Hippodrome has launched an online petition and facebook campaign to block the plans. The petition has attracted thousands of signatures.

This time the protesters are wrong.

The Hippodrome has stood empty and unloved since 2007. It was opened at the end of the 19th century as an ice rink and  converted into a theatre in 1902 by architect Frank Matcham. It played host to the likes of The Beatles and The Rolling Stones in the 1960s but its fortunes waned and it was a turned into a bingo hall before the doors were closed  for good.

The plans submitted to the council seem imaginative and sensible.

On its website, the developer states: “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.”

Yes, it’s the kind of thing they would say, wouldn’t they.

But the plans are costed, sensible and achievable. If planning is granted, a dead building would be brought back to life.

It’s time to raise the curtain on a new act in the city.

Take a virtual tour of the developer’s scheme here

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One thought on “A new life for the Brighton Hippodrome

  1. By now it should be evident that Our Brighton Hippodrome is not a protest group and its aim is not to block the plans to convert the Hippodrome into a cinema. It wants to restore the Hippodrome for the only reason it was given a Grade II* listing (the star is important): because it is a theatre. This is the more forward-looking, more practical and by far the most popular scheme.

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