Soapbox Tony Jaggers: Hippodrome study is encouraging news for its future
THE study on the future of Derby Hippodrome Theatre (Derby Telegraph, October 2) is extremely welcome, even if long overdue.
Derby City Council must be congratulated on its positive action. Mounted in conjunction with English Heritage, the study should settle the future of this wonderful grade two listed building, described by the Theatres Trust as a "sleeping princess".
The recently issued options appraisal by Latham Architects, commissioned by Derby Hippodrome Restoration Trust but paid for by the city council and the Architectural Heritage Fund, demonstrated a number of viable options for restoring the building to its former glory.
The area is in desperate need of renovation but there are now encouraging signs that the council is determined to do something positive. It was recently declared a conservation area. In 2010 the planning committee rejected an application to convert the shell of the building into a multi-storey car park. This clearly demonstrated that the essence of the building, a large ornamented space, had to be maintained.
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English Heritage and the Theatres Trust had supplied overwhelming evidence on its historical value: a rare example of the transition between music halls and cinema. The council has also carried out work to stabilise part of the roof.
This latest news must have heartened people living nearby: the derelict site is causing pollution as well as being a haven for vandals, arsonists and drug dealers.
Duckworth Square opposite is another wasted opportunity but the Derby Telegraph report of January 25 indicates real progress.
The feasibility study, the new conservation area and the marketing of Duckworth Square all represent a much needed ambition to improve this part of Derby: the council is to be warmly congratulated on these exciting intentions. It will, however, need to be conscious of the great affection that many people hold for the theatre, for its historical value, for the concern felt by a number of national authorities, for the historical value of the surrounding conservation area and for the exciting possibilities represented by Duckworth Square.
If the current council can achieve this where all others have failed in the past they will deserve the applause of all who treasure the arts and history of Derby.