The drama over the future of the Brighton Hippodrome has taken a fresh twist.
Last month, the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) wrote to Adrian Smith, a planning officer at Brighton and Hove City Council , to say that the council should hold its horses over plans to turn the derelict building into a cinema.
Secretary of State Eric Pickles has issued an Article 25 holding notice, extending the time limit in which he has to decide whether to call in the plans.
On August 6, Samantha Johnson, inspector of historic buildings and areas at English Heritage’s south east office wrote to Maria Bowen at DCLG to underline the fact that it believes the plans from Alaska Development Consultants to turn the Grade II listed building into an eight-screen cinema represent “the best chance to conserve the heritage asset.”
She said: “In summary, English Heritage considers that the proposals, while harmful to the significance of the grade II* listed building, are justifiable in policy terms because of the public benefits they would deliver, the principle one of which is securing the future of what is now a very vulnerable building at risk.”
She goes on to say that while English Heritage is aware of the objections from the Victorian Society, Theatres Trust, and Our Brighton Hippodrome, neither English Heritage nor Brighton and Hove City Council has been presented with a detailed alternative scheme that sets out a realistic and viable proposal for a theatre on the site.
The district valuer’s report has concluded that the development of the building as a theatre would not be commercially viable.
Here is the valuer’s estimated trading performance for a theatre at the Brighton Hippodrome:
Reasonable expectation of Gross receipts
Estimated admissions 145,600 pa
Average ticket price £18
Food and beverage £196,560
Total receipts £2,817,360 pa
Cost of sales
Direct costs £1,756,000
Gross profit £933,360
42% Gross receipts £1,183, 250
Estimated annual loss -£249,890
The valuer’s report points out that although supporters of the theatre plan have said that a reborn Hippodrome would capable of hosting large West End musicals and even circuses, the space is similar to Brighton Dome, which only operates with the assistance of a council subsidy.
The report says: “I also considered whether an additional theatre in Brighton would generate additional custom for Brighton as a theatre destination location and thus would make the theatre proposal commercially viable. There is no evidence to support such a contention. Indeed, the Hippodrome at Leicester Square, surrounded by West End theatres, indicates that the opposite is the case. In my opinion, a concentration of theatres cannot reliably contribute to commercial success.”
Here is the developer’s scheme for a cinema at the site.