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Judi Dench and Alan Ayckbourn protest at Brighton Hippodrome cinema plans

Playwrights Alan Ayckbourn and Arnold Wesker have joined performers including Judi Dench and Christopher Biggins in calling for Brighton Hippodrome to be retained as a theatre.

They are among a list of more than 100 arts figures who have signed an open letter against plans to turn the theatre into a cinema and restaurant complex. Others who have signed up include Roy Hudd, Equity general secretary Christine Payne and Malcolm Sinclair, Equity president.

In the letter, they state they are “appalled that this is the prospect for this iconic and irreplaceable building” and cite the “irreversible damage” that will be done if the conversion to a cinema and restaurant complex goes ahead.

They state that there is still time for Kuig Property Investments, which owns the building, and cinema chain Vue to reconsider, claiming the “world of theatre and the nation will thank them for years to come”.

Plans to turn the theatre into a cinema complex were granted by the local council in July [1].

However, in their letter, the campaigners claim that the local authority did not consider evidence from the Our Brighton Hippodrome campaign group that the building could still be saved as a theatre.

“The planning decision was made on incomplete and incorrect information. The viability and business plan from OBH clearly demonstrates that theatre restoration at the Hippodrome is viable, fundable and sustainable,” the letter states, adding: “If the wishes of the local community and electorate were taken into account there is no question what the outcome would be: theatre restoration, which the council would be actively promoting, instead of continuing to resist.”

The letter continues that it is “not too late for the owner… to reconsider” and for Vue Entertainment to decide “that the time is not right to destroy most of the much-loved Hippodrome when other opportunities for a new-build cinema are available in Brighton and Hove”.

Vue Entertainment and Brighton and Hove City Council did not respond to requests for comments.