A theatre of outstanding national importance, despite this...
OBH v District Valuer

OBH v the District Valuer

Before a planning application was submitted, Brighton and Hove City Council asked the developer of the cinema/retail/restaurant scheme to 'present a viability case as to why the Hippodrome cannot be restored as a theatre for the District Valuer to independently assess alongside your cinema viability case'.1
      A viability report was produced, written mainly by the developer, Alaska Development Consultants, but presented by J Ashworth Associates (JAA) which acknowledged that 'we have added to [Alaska's] report to respond to concerns raised by the Council, rather than repeat its contents'. JAA is a specialist in the market for golf courses.2
      OBH produced a detailed analysis of the JAA report, pointing out its many errors, misunderstandings and inconsistencies.

The council sent the JAA report to the Distroct Valuer, asking for an assessment of the argument against theatre restoration but not asking for this to be alongside the cinema viability case. Cinema was not considered. The council withheld our evidence about the JAA report explicitly because it came from a community group and not expert consultants! (For the record, our team has experience and expertise in architcture, planning, finance, marketing, media analysis, theatre management and production management, among other things.)

The District Valuer said a Hippodrome theatre would make a loss of £249,890 a year. He had done his calculations for a much smaller theatre, with a seat occupancy rate half the national average and a very low average ticket price. In fact, he used figures the developer had concocted to 'prove' that the theatre option was a non-starter.
      He really should have come to the experts (us) for advice. When inserting the correct correct figures (ours) into his strange financial model—one that no one we have talked to in the theatre business has ever come across or can understand—we come out with a £2.5m profit.
      He also said a Brighton Hippodrome was not viable because the London Hippodrome is now a casino and not a theatre, despite being in the West End. Such a display of ignorance! The London Hippodrome ceased being a regular theatre in 1951 and for much of its subsequent life was a famous night club called Talk of the Town. The coincidence of having the same name proves nothing, Mr Valuer. Try comparing our Hippodrome with the ones in Birmingham, Bristol, even Todmorden. They all thrive as theatres in their various ways.

1 Letter from planning officer Adrian Smith to Simon Neate, Indigo Planning; 11 October 2013
2J Ashworth Associates: Restoration of the Brighton Hippodrome. A Report on the Viability of Alternative Uses. December 2013

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This issue is now of historic interest, for which reason this page has been retained.

As the council has not put the District Valuer's report on its website, we've put it on ours, with our commentary on it.
Read it here.


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Facebook Twitter Image: Emblin Walker's plan for refurbishing the Hippodrome, 1915