Keep Dudley Hippodrome as arts venue, pleads councillor
Dudley Hippodrome should be kept as an arts venue rather than be turned into a centre for driverless vehicles, according to a councillor.
Councillor Shaun Keasey said the historic building needs to be restored.
He said he felt art would help improve the mental health of future generations.
His plea comes amid plans from the council to turn the iconic venue into a centre for driverless vehicles.
The Conservative member for Sedgley spoke out after senior council officers rejected a plan to reopen the theatre as a performance venue, in favour of building a high-tech autonomous test facility.
Councillor Keasey said: “We place so much importance on health. Physical health is well catered for with gyms and swimming pools, but what about mental health?”
“Music, performance and art are of huge benefit to mental health and Dudley has, in The Hippodrome, a site that could become a cultural centre,” he said.
Expressions of interest
In September the authority received two expressions of interest outlining plans for the venue that first opened its doors in 1938.
The submissions included a plan by the Driverless Vehicles Consortium to use the land as control centre for a high tech autonomous vehicle demonstration route.
The estimated cost is £9 million and the plans have been backed by the West Midlands Combined Authority Transport for the West Midlands’ group.
A second scheme by Dudley Hippodrome Community Group for a £12 million refurbishment was rejected because officers claimed it had no clear and cogent plan to secure funding.
Further outlining their reasons, they added: “The group accept that they have no experience of developing and delivering a major capital project. In virtually all areas of the submission, the proposal is weak.”
Councillor Keasey has said the council should back the plan and offer their support and expertise.
He added: “The group wanting to re-open The Hippodrome may be inexperienced but they are passionate Dudley people who want to give their time and effort to create something unique –It should not always be about the money.”
Members of Dudley cabinet will meet tonight to discuss whether to accept the officers’ recommendation.
By George Makin, Local Democracy Reporter