A local council has been urged to reconsider its support for plans to turn the disused Dudley Hippodrome into a test site for driverless cars.
Dudley Council granted planning permission to the controversial scheme, which would see the theatre building demolished, in December 2018.
This came after the council turned down an expression of interest from a campaign group called Dudley Hippodrome Community Group, which proposed the retention and an estimated £12 million refurbishment of the existing building.
The Hippodrome, which is fourth on the Theatres Trust Theatre Buildings at Risk Register, closed in the 1960s.
The Dudley Driverless Vehicles Consortium was given 12 months to develop its plans following permission being granted in 2018.
However it did not deliver the proposal within the time frame, and was granted an extension by Dudley Council on January 6.
Theatre conservation body the Theatres Trust has called on the council to reconsider its decision to grant the extension.
A statement from the Theatres Trust said: “This group of large commercial and professional organisations was given a year and council officer support to develop a viable business plan, which it has failed to deliver by the deadline.
“This is particularly concerning as the community group who were previously in occupation of the theatre had its five-year lease terminated after just one year due to non-delivery of the same.
“The council actively impeded the community group by submitting an application to demolish the theatre building when the community group took occupation, undermining any hope of the group securing external funding.”
The trust argued that there is still an active group trying to save the theatre, which it says could be a “wonderful cultural hub for the community”.
It added: “This is why the recent decision by Dudley Council is so disappointing and neglects Dudley’s history and the public support for saving this building.
“The Hippodrome presents an opportunity for Dudley and we call on the council to consider it as an option in its plans for a new entertainment venue.”
Leader of Dudley Council, Patrick Harley, said: ‘The last stage show held at the former Hippodrome took place during 1964. Since then, the building has been used for a variety of purposes, most recently, a bingo hall which closed in 2009.
“The Dudley Driverless Vehicles Consortium have been provided with additional time to develop comprehensive proposals for the site […] The council intends to bid for a share of a £3.6billion national [Towns Fund] pot to deliver two new educational establishments delivering higher level qualifications in a range of skills that will be required for the future.
“For the first time in more than 30 years, there is a realistic opportunity of significant funding being available to bring the site back into effective use to help boost the local economy while providing local people with the chance to develop higher level skills and access well paid jobs.”