CAMPAIGNERS are calling on the council to promise not to allow one of the city’s most beloved buildings to be gutted.

The Hippodrome in Middle Street, Brighton, was sold this week to a developer who has written publicly of his intention to turn it into a luxury hotel and apartment block “with a concert, theatre and banqueting venue”.

Aized Sheikh, who also owns the Teville Gate development in Worthing, told The Argus it was too early to offer any assurances as to the future of the 120-year-old Rococo auditorium which has played host to The Beatles and The Rolling Stones.

But in a recent update to his LinkedIn profile, he 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.”

Gavin Henderson, chairman of the Our Hippodrome CIC, which has raised money and campaigned for the venue to be preserved as a theatre, said: “It’s obviously very worrying.

“It’s quite clear from both the Theatre Trust - who view it as one of the most important theatres in the country not currently in use - and for all the needs of Brighton to bring major touring shows into the city, this is our last chance.

“It’s viewed not only as a historic monument and a fantastic heritage asset, but as a production venue.

“There’s no other way to get a lyric theatre in Brighton, this is the last chance.

“It’s in the hands of the council now, and of the planning department.

“It needs the will of the council to put their foot down, which they can.”

He said it was critical the council undertook to deny any planning application which would preclude the site’s use 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 which is 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”.

Campaigners have called for the Hippodrome to be returned to its former glory so the city once again has a venue for “tier one” plays and musical theatre touring productions.

Yesterday The Argus reported the Theatre Trust, which is charged with protecting the nation’s theatres, is against any change of use which would prevent the building being a lyric theatre.

Alan Robins, the chairman of the council’s tourism and culture committee told The Argus: “I’d hate to see it turned into a boutique hotel. I really wish I could imagine it as a theatre again but I don’t know if that’s realistic.”

It is the planners, not Cllr Robins’ committee, which will have jurisdiction over any plans submitted by the developer.

Planning chairwoman Julie Cattell said she would have to remove herself from any future meeting on the matter if she commented in advance. A council spokesman said: “We cannot comment on any potential future planning application or on speculation of what may be in a planning application.”