Hippodrome exterior


Matsim has submitted planning and listed building consent applications for a scheme that is based on live entertainment, with bars in the main auditorium and a members' club on the ground floor of Hippodrome House, the Georgian northern section of the site. Two aparthotels are proposed, one in Hippodrome House and the larger one to be built on the service yard and the fly-tower would be fitted out with serviced offices.
      The applications and supporting documentation are here. There are two:
• the first is the listed building consent (LBC) application. The Hippodrome is listed Grade II* by Historic England.
That * —which, incidentally, is omitted in the applications—is important as it requires a much higher standard of evidence for proposed work on particularly important; buildings of more than special interest.
• the second is the planning application for the proposed work.

You can read our formal objection here (opens in new window).

Why we object
This scheme is very similar to the one developed at great expense over five years between 2007 and 2012 by Academy Music Group (AMG)/LiveNation. That project was abandoned because of issues concerning licensing in the Cumulative Impact Zone (CIZ) that surrounds the Hippodrome, part of BHCC's policy of limiting alcohol availability, especially late night.
      If the world’s largest music promoter couldn’t make it work, how can Matsim?
      The applications (and the ongoing PR effort) focus on the offer of a major entertainment venue—promising 'major bands' (none-too-subtle hints about the Rolling Stones!) among a list of potential uses. This has been accepted by BHCC's licensing panel as justification for making an exception to the restrictions in the CIZ. The overall balance of the applications, however, favours the hotel and bars rather than the performance space—which is crucially in the heritage part of the site.

Unfortunately, there is much wrong with the applications, which are short on vital information. This is the recurring theme from consultees and even in the documents by Matsim's own consultants to support the applications.
• In its Optimum Viability Report Colliers has ‘not attempted to construct a financial model specifically for either the auditorium or the development in its entirety.’ Colliers states: ‘This is because the scheme is not yet specified in sufficient detail to enable it and the plan would, as a result, have to be speculative.’
• The report by Acoustic Associates Sussex does not consider noise breakthrough to the aparthotels and offices and warns that ’significant mitigation measures to the current state of the building [and] substantial upgrades to the building envelope’ will be necessary. The impact of noise in the housing in Ship Street Garens is not measured.

The one aspect of the applications that is now developed is the eb=ntertainment venue. The survival of the heritage asset depends on a solid business proposition. THe plans have clearly not been reviewed by professional venue operators.
• There is no evidence of understanding of the requirements to make such a venue work in practice.
• A wide range of uses is proposed but with no idea of how they would integrate, still less how they would be brought in and out.
• There is no outline event programme.
• There is no business plan, no financial projection.
• The performance facilities are limited. It must be doubted whether the current design could work for the sort of entertainment described.
      If the performance aspects don't stack up, the project comes down to providing food and drink. These are already more than adequately provided for in the immediate area of the Hippodrome.

Does objecting put the Hippodrome at risk?
Matsim's spokesperson has said that comments by the Theatres Trust are unsubstantated and and unhelpful. Like us, the Trust wants to save the Hippodrome as a workable venue for the city. The critique, like ours, is to prevent a big mistake. Pointing out from accumulated knowledge and experience the ways in which the applications need to be improved before they are consented is genuinely supportive and should not be dismissed.
      By not providing a clear idea of how the Hippodrome would be run as a performance venue—and not just as the aparthotels, offices, member's club and bars, which are less important—it is these applications that put the future of the Hippodrome at risk. The argument that objecting may delay or even scupper work to restore the building is outweighed by the need to ensure a viable and sustainable scheme. Pointing this out does not itself put the Hippodrome at risk.


• History
The background as a heritage building explains why this is still such an important theatre.


• The future: theatre
What we have been working on for six years: full restoration as a large-scale theatre.
Read our business plan and other evidence for a viable and sustainable theatre.


• The future: alternative
What the current owners propose.
Read why we have objected to the current planning and listed building consent applications.

We are grateful for support from
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Page created 15 October 2022