Controversial plans to redevelop the derelict Dudley Hippodrome into a test site for driverless cars have been approved by the local council.
The news comes despite the Theatres Trust and campaigners calling for the theatre to be restored and reopened for an arts use. The trust called it “hugely disappointing”.
A report from officers at Dudley Council last month recommended the local authority accepts proposals submitted by the Dudley Driverless Vehicles Consortium to create a site to test driverless vehicles.
The report turned down an expression of interest from a campaign group called Dudley Hippodrome Community Group, which proposes the retention and an estimated £12 million refurbishment of the existing building.
Dudley Council’s cabinet voted on December 6 to accept the recommendations of the report.
The Dudley Driverless Vehicles Consortium has now been given 12 months to develop its plans.
Tom Stickland, theatres adviser at the Theatres Trust, said: “Last night’s decision is hugely disappointing for everyone who has been working to bring Dudley Hippodrome back into use for the community, but some hope still remains.
“While it is frustrating the council did not give the campaign group the same opportunity to prove its business plan, this 12-month period does give it the time to strengthen its campaign and continue to build support for Dudley Hippodrome, should the driverless vehicle proposal prove unviable.”
Keiran Casey, cabinet member for regeneration and enterprise at Dudley Council, said: “When considering both these proposals, we have had to be pragmatic in our approach and look very carefully about which would provide the best and most viable opportunity for the town in the long term.”
The Hippodrome, which is fourth on the Theatres Trust Theatre Buildings at Risk Register, closed in the 1960s.