CAMPAIGNERS who had been hoping to save Dudley Hippodrome have told of their sadness at news the theatre is to be demolished now that Dudley councillors have voted to plough ahead with plans to create a university park on the site.

Dudley Council's cabinet last night (Thursday September 23) backed the new plans for the site at the foot of Castle Hill which will see the derelict 1930s theatre knocked down.

The project includes driverless vehicles technology, very light rail innovation and the metro extension through Dudley town and it is being driven forward by Dudley Town’s Fund Board which is seeking funding from central government’s Towns Fund.

Theatres Trust director Jon Morgan said: "Theatres Trust is extremely disappointed by the news that Dudley Council has voted go ahead with its plans for the regeneration of the site of Dudley Hippodrome, which will mean the demolition of this building which we believe could still have cultural or community use.

"A late-1930s purpose-built variety theatre, the Hippodrome is Dudley’s only remaining lyric theatre and has been on our Theatres at Risk Register since 2010.

"Theatres Trust is a statutory consultee in planning and as such the council will need to consult with us on the proposed demolition of the Hippodrome. We can not support the demolition of theatre buildings until their viability has been disproven – and this has yet to be done for Dudley Hippodrome.

"Given that demolition would mean the loss of a cultural venue and a building of, we believe, national significance and that there is a community group eager to restore and reopen the building we would also consider the option of call in to the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, who has the power to take over planning applications rather than letting the local authority decide.

"We have written to the council to inform of them of our position."

Councillor Patrick Harley, leader of Dudley Council, has described the state-of-the-art plan for the site as "a once-in-a-generation opportunity to make huge improvements to Dudley" and a detailed report highlighting progress on the ambitious scheme went before members of the council's cabinet last night - outlining funding opportunities and the plan to demolish the former theatre turned bingo hall.

And today (Friday September 24) it was confirmed that Dudley is to receive £1million in funding from the Government’s Towns Fund which aims to help drive growth, kick start local projects and support communities.

West Midlands Mayor Andy Street welcomed news of the funding and said he would work with the council and business leaders to ensure it makes a difference.

Councillor Ian Kettle, Dudley's cabinet member for regeneration and enterprise, said: “Dudley town centre is undergoing a huge regeneration programme that is seeing £1bn of investment across the town with work to create the Metro extension, the Very Light Rail National Innovation Centre and a new leisure centre currently underway.

“Dudley Council is continuing to work with a number of partners and businesses to look at other opportunities for the town and we have high hopes for a bright and exciting future.

“The Towns Fund will contribute £1million to help create a new public realm from the bottom of Castle Street to Castle Hill, linking the fantastic visitor attractions with our town centre with improvements to street layout, paving and furniture.”