THE hippodrome has been purchased by a developer who intends to turn it into a luxury hotel, The Argus can reveal.

The 120-year-old Hippodrome, in Middle Street, Brighton, has been closed since 2006. It was bought this week by Aized Sheikh, an investor and property developer who is also behind the redevelopment of the Teville Gate in Worthing.

In a recent update to his LinkedIn social media profile, Mr Sheikh wrote: “We are pleased to announce the purchase of a [sic] iconic site in Brighton.

“For the development of a boutique 5 star 70 bed hotel, 25 high end serviced apartments and a concert, theater[sic], conference and banqueting venue.”

Campaigners who have fought for years to have the theatre restored to its former glory were alarmed by the statement and warned such a radical redesign of the site would jeopardise its viability as a theatre capable of hosting major productions.

TV magician and Save Our Hippodrome campaigner Paul Zenon said: “The good news is the Hippodrome has a new lease of life, but the concern is the theatrical side will be a very minor side of it.”

David Fisher, director of the Brighton Hippodrome CIC, said: “What we hope will happen is that we’ll be able to talk to the new owner about restoring it as a real theatre - especially retaining the fly tower and retaining the get-in at the back.

“That’s essential if it’s to be retained as a lyric theatre.”

A lyric theatre is one capable of staging major performances, which has behind-the-scenes infrastructure to lift and drop large pieces of scenery into place - equipment known as a fly tower.

The Brighton Dome has no fly tower and the Theatre Royal’s stage door access is small, limiting the scale of the shows it can stage.

War Horse, for instance, will be staged at the Brighton Centre when it comes to the city in 2018, which theatre experts told the Argus was “hardly an ideal theatrical venue”.

The Theatre Trust, a national body for the preservation of theatrical spaces has had the Hippodrome at the top of its Theatre Buildings At Risk register for the last four years.

Claire Appleby, architecture advisor of the Theatre Trust told the Argus a viability study in 2015 showed there was a profitable future for the building to be used as a theatre, especially as a venue for major touring shows.

She added: “So we would not want to see any development which precludes use of the Hippodrome as a lyric future.”

Last night Mr Sheikh confirmed his purchase to The Argus but said his business had “no site plans” for the property.

Asked for reassurances as to the building’s future, he said: “It’s too early at the moment to offer any assurances.

“Our strategy at the moment is to listen and consider all options, and engage with people interested in keeping the heritage asset. It needs love and attention, it’s been neglected for many many years.”

The grade II*-listed Hippodrome in Middle Street was originally built as an ice rink in 1897 and converted into a 1,400-seat variety theatre in 1902 by Frank Matcham.

The venue was used as a Lyric Theatre - meaning a theatre with the size and capacity for large scale scenery changes - for most of the twentieth century.

Circus acts, variety theatre, vaudeville shows and bands including The Beatles and The Rolling Stones performed there.

Most recently used as a Mecca Bingo hall, the building was closed to the public in 2006.

In 2015, then-leaseholder Academy Music Group purchased the freehold.