Ruined Hippodrome to be repaired by city council
DERBY City Council will carry out £90,000-worth of repairs to the derelict Hippodrome Theatre and plans to force its owner to pay – even if it bankrupts him.
The authority had ordered the grade II-listed building's owner, Christopher Anthony, to remove loose bricks and timbers on the Macklin Street facade and put up hoarding across the Crompton Street side to improve security.
But he failed to meet the authority's deadline of yesterday afternoon so now the council is preparing to appoint contractors to carry out the repairs on its behalf.
The council said Mr Anthony would be "rigorously pursued" – "if necessary to the point of bankruptcy."
Council leader Harvey Jennings said he was aware Mr Anthony was in financial difficulty but said the work was needed and the authority would start bankruptcy proceedings against him if he failed to pay for them.
"We have been pursuing Mr Anthony to carry out the work but without any success. The owner has been unresponsive but we feel it is incumbent on us to make the building safe," he said.
"Structural work is needed to do that so that we can remove the scaffolding that's up.
"At the moment we are going out to find a contractor to carry out the work but it is expected to cost £90,000 to do it. We will be taking every step in our power to recover the costs from Mr Anthony."
Once the work is complete it will mean that fencing, which has been blocking vehicle access to Macklin Street for more than 18 months, can be taken down.
Around £60,000 will be spent on the Macklin Street side of the building where most work is needed.
The work will be carried out from a cherry picker and will include: cutting timbers which protrude beyond the back wall; stripping off loose roof slates; rebuilding loose and missing masonry from the inner wall; repositioning the rafters along Macklin Street; re-slating the area of the roof which is currently covered in slates with matching or reclaimed ones; installing flashings and repositioning rafters.
The remaining £30,000 will be spent on the Crompton Street side, where the council will put up a timber hoarding between the Hippodrome and a terraced house. All debris from the top of an existing metal canopy along Macklin Street will also be removed.
The ultimatum ordering Mr Anthony to carry out the work was given after the council's planning committee last month refused permission for the London developer to turn the former theatre into a multi-storey car park.
The decision was welcomed by campaigners, who want to see the restoration of the derelict theatre, which has partly collapsed.
The building was left in a poor state of repair after work on its roof in March 2008.
In February, at Derby Crown Court, Mr Anthony admitted ordering work to be carried out which led to the building's roof collapsing.
The city council accepted the damage had not been caused deliberately.
A probe was launched into the developer's finances and in April, a judge ruled he was too "broke" to be fined for damaging the listed building.
The work, to begin once contractors are appointed, will allow the council to reopen Macklin Street to vehicles after 18 months as part of the Connecting Derby scheme to allow easy access to the new inner ring road and cut congestion.
Mohammed Afzal, who works at Eagle City Cars taxi firm in Macklin Street, said: "It's been hard to park cars at the base and made it difficult to get to places quickly because we can't use the road to access streets like Abbey Street. For us if the road can be reopened that would be great news."
Peter Steer, from the Derby Hippodrome Restoration Trust, which wants to see the building restored as a medium-sized theatre, also welcomed the work.
"This will give temporary protection to the building and we hope it will stop people getting into that building through the fencing in Macklin Street.
"More work needs to be done. It needs roofing to keep the weather out and that's what we would be looking for."
A representative for Mr Anthony said it was clear he was unable to afford the work and that it would be wrong for the council to "carry out works that are not essential for health and safety knowing it will bankrupt Mr Anthony".