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Hippodromes top UK theatre buildings “most at risk”

At risk theatres - (clock wise from top left) Swansea Palace, Brighton Hippodrome, Derby Hippodrome and Hulme Hippodrome. Photos: Ian Grundy/Mark Price
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Brighton Hippodrome leads this year’s Theatre Buildings at Risk Register, which also names hippodromes in Derby, Dudley and Manchester as the performance spaces most under threat of being lost.

The Theatres Trust, which publishes the list annually, described current proposals to slice up the grade II*-listed Brighton Hippodrome into a cinema complex as close to “heritage vandalism”.

Developers are proposing an eight-screen cinema and bar area for the 1,400-seat disused venue, which would involve demolishing the stage house and leasing out parts of the building.

Meanwhile, Derby Hippodrome remains closed and partially demolished, with no firm plans from its owner or the council on its future. Dudley Hippodrome is due to be demolished as part of redevelopment plans by its local authority. Campaigners who want to save Hulme Hippodrome, Manchester, continue to fight for its restoration and reopening.

Ten new additions have been made to the 2013 register, although the overall number of buildings listed has decreased marginally, from 49 to 48.

Aside from the hippodromes, other venues that come top of the register include Alexandra Palace Theatre in London, which is still developing detailed proposals for its restoration.

The Futurist in Scarborough is also deemed high-risk, due to its council’s recent decision to close the venue while it finalises plans for the site. The grade II-listed Palace Theatre in Swansea has moved up the list to one of the top positions because its owner has “undertaken no work to secure the increasingly water and plant growth-damaged theatre”, according to the trust.

New additions this year include the Spa Pavilion in Felixstowe, the Brewhouse in Taunton and the former Theatre Royal in Manchester.

In Scotland, three theatres have been removed from TBAR because their futures have now been secured. These are the Britannia Panopticon in Glasgow, which has had its facade restored and exterior repaired; the Leith Theatre in Edinburgh, where a five-year lease has been awarded to its trust; and the Scottish capital’s New Victoria/Odeon venue, because its auditorium will be retained in the new cultural scheme for the site.

Also taken off the list this year are the Theatre Royal Margate, Stanford Hall Theatre, the Little Germany Theatre in Bradford and the Floral Hall in Hornsea.

However, four venues have been taken off the list because they are legally no longer theatres. The Cochrane and Mermaid theatres in London are two such examples, because they have been awarded certificates that change their status within planning law.

Mhora Samuel, director of the Theatres Trust, said: “We are at risk of losing really important and historic theatre buildings as a result of neglect, development and demolition. Some have been left to rot and are being destroyed by water damage and rampant buddleia; others are at the mercy of developers.

“Our top theatres at risk include those with special heritage status, but this is not protecting them. Brighton Hippodrome, Plymouth Palace, Hulme Hippodrome and Swansea Palace are beautiful theatres that could be reborn in ways that would enable us to continue to appreciate their full splendour. They deserve to be treated better.”

Bad news – top theatres at risk in 2013

Brighton Hippodrome

Derby Hippodrome

Dudley Hippodrome

Hulme Hippodrome

Alexandra Palace Theatre

The Futurist, Scarborough

Swansea Palace

Plymouth Palace

Theatre Royal Hyde

Good news – theatres removed from list due to their futures being secured

Britannia Panopticon, Glasgow

Leith Theatre, Edinburgh

New Victoria/Odeon, Edinburgh

Margate Theatre Royal

Stanford Hall Theatre

Little Germany Theatre, Bradford

Floral Hall, Hornsea

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