A theatre of outstanding national importance
Our Brighton Hippodrome


Call-in by the Secretary of State
Our Brighton Hippodrome, The Theatres Trust, the Victorian Society and scores of others asked the Secretary of State at the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) to call in the current planning application and take it out of the hands of Brighton and Hove City Council.
      OBH submitted a petition with 2,722 signatures ollected in a matter of days asking the Secretary of State to make the call-in. Even that cut no ice with the government:

No call-in
Planning minister Brandon Lewis told The Theatres Trust that he had decided not to call in the planning application for the Hippodrome. That information was also sent to OBH by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG).
      The reason: 'The Government is committed to give more power to councils and communities to make their own decision on planning issues, and believes planning decisions should be made at the local level wherever possible.'
      If ever there was a planning application that should have been called in, this is it. It is for a Grade II* listed building at risk, which is threatened with substantial demolition, in circumstances where the council and the community are seemingly on opposite sides of the fence.

Here's what we said
There are many reasons why it should have been called in, which are summarised here.
      One key argument is that the council is in a potentially invidious and untenable position, having to decide the fate of a building that it sees as a threat to its own performance space interests in the city.
      There is no threat, of course. But by simply approving the cinema proposal and refusing to allow consideration of the theatre option, it is inevitably going to appear to be acting in its own self-interest.
      The council should be relieved of this compromising position. If the application is called in the Secretary of State will appoint a planning inspector to assess all the evidence, including the theatre option.

BHCC call-in request
In a press release from Brighton & Hove City Council, planning committee chair Phelim Mac Cafferty said: 'The scheme was approved at committee today but we now need to see whether the government wish to call it in.
      'In an ideal world we would have had an application to restore this building as a theatre—something that councillors at committee repeatedly said they would have preferred. The sad reality of the situation is that we didn't have that today.'
      See the press release here.
      We understand that inviting the Secretary of State to call in a planning application is a very unusual move on the part of a local planning authority. It suggests that the council wants to be sure it is making the right decision before finally committing itself.
Current situation
This page is retained for reference only.

Although the planning approval was granted the council in November 2014, the then owner had no intention of pursuing it and promptly put the site on the market.
      Brighton and Hove City Council and Historic England (formerly English Heritage) now accept that our plans for restoration of the Hippodrome for live performance and events is the best option and are now working with us to make that happen.

As a general principle, however, we believe that if it's up to the council and the community to decide planning issues, the community needs to he heard and heeded. If you live in Brighton and Hove, make your views known to your ward councillors. You can track them down through the BHCC website.

Key reasons for requesting the Secretary of State's intervention:

Brighton Hippodrome is a unique example of an internationally and nationally significant Grade II* type of theatre building. The importance of the building is acknowledged on Brighton and Hove City Council public record therefore the planning application and listed building consent should not be determined by the LPA.

  • Brighton Hippodrome is an architecturally significant heritage asset of substantial cultural value within the central area of Brighton. The current proposals will not conserve Brighton Hippodrome in a manner appropriate to its historical and theatrical significance.
  • Our Brighton Hippodrome (OBH) contends that Brighton and Hove City Council (BHCC) planning officers dismissed the possibility of restoration of the Brighton Hippodrome as a theatre PRIOR to submission of the current planning and listed building applications on the grounds that there are already enough live performance venues in the city and surrounding towns.
  • OBH submitted an application to BHCC for listing of the Hippodrome as an Asset of Community Value (ACV) on 9 July 2014. This information was not made available to the planning committee during their meeting. We have urged that consideration of planning and listed building applications relating to the Hippodrome should be deferred at least until the ACV application has been determined.
  • At BHCC's planning committee meeting on 16 July 2014, the majority of councillors referred to theatre use being the best option for the future of the Hippodrome. Current proposals for conversion to cinema/restaurant use were presented as the only viable option. It has not been sufficiently demonstrated that there is no alternative viable use which enables Brighton Hippodrome to be appreciated and used in its original form and that would cause less than substantial harm to the significance of the building itself.
  • OBH is constituted as a not-for-profit community association with city-wide and regional membership and with appointed trustees and officers. OBH was denied speaking rights at the planning committee on 16 July 2014 on the grounds that BHCC protocols permit speaking rights for only immediate neighbours and the developer. OBH contends that as the application to convert the Hippodrome to cinema use affects all wards of the City, speaking rights should have been extended to an organisation with city-wide membership.
  • As there has been no prior marketing exercise for the Hippodrome, OBH could not have been aware of the cinema proposal until it was in development.
  • OBH lodged a Freedom of Information (FOI) request for the District Valuation Office (DVO) report on Brighton Hippodrome on 9 July 2014. The viability of the cinema proposal was not considered by the DVO and viability of theatre use was appraised on the basis of the developer's viability study—which OBH had already shown to be seriously flawed. However, the information OBH supplied on cinema and theatre viability was withheld from the DVO because OBH is a community/pressure group and not a professional body—a decision based only on the planning case officer's interpretation of BHCC protocol.  The information we supplied was no less accurate or reliable because of our status.
  • During the planning committee meeting, councillors were unable to obtain absolute confirmation from the developer that the current proposals would allow the possibility of reversion of the building to its original state. Therefore, there is the evident risk that this significant Grade II* building will be lost to future generations unless the planning and listed building applications are determined by the Secretary of State.
  • The Chair of the Planning Committee was minded to defer the applications but according to BHCC protocols was not allowed to raise this prior to the meeting, nor before other members had contributed to the debate during the meeting. That would have been deemed to constitute an attempt to influence the outcome. Whilst OBH respects the rules of probity, in the event the vote on the planning application was one third against. If protocol had not prevented the Chair of committee from raising the possibility of deferral early enough for it to be considered, the outcome may well have been different.  At least two councillors questioned why the Chair had raised deferral of the decision so late in the meeting and indicated that they might have accepted that option and voted otherwise.
  • Fragmentation of leases could lead to the impossibility of reversion to theatre use, should that even be possible otherwise. If the restaurant leases outlived the cinema lease, there would be no takers for a restored theatre alone, without access to the whole site. Reversibility of the cinema conversion would again prove to be effectively impossible.
  • The public benefit of the scheme does not outweigh the loss of cultural use or the architectural significance of the building. For this reason alone the planning and listed building applications should be determined by the Secretary of State.
  • To support the campaign
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