THE new owners of a former theatre say it has been locked away for too long.

Simon Lambor, of family-run company Matsim Properties, was under no illusions about the amount of work it would take to restore Brighton Hippodrome to its former glory.

The intricately designed auditorium has played host to artists of international acclaim such as The Beatles and The Rolling Stones.

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But the site has fallen into a state of disrepair in recent years and has been unused since 2007.

Despite this, many people in Brighton and Hove continue to campaign passionately for the Grade II listed building to be salvaged.

As a result, there was great excited when former owners Hipp Investments sold the site last month following a failed attempt to convert it into a hotel, spa and serviced apartments complex.

Mr Lambor said: “Being local, we have kept up to date with all the developments at the site in recent years, seeing it fall into rack and ruin.

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“We know what a special presence it has in the city.

“It’s quite a daunting task for a lot of people, it’s still daunting for us, but we are going to do our best to make it work.

“We have dealt with the restoration of up to 20 listed heritage buildings, albeit none as important as this.”

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The venue has worn many hats in the past. It was built as an ice rink in 1897, but has been used as a circus and variety theatre as well as a music venue during its 123-year history.

Its future use, however, could be down to those who love it the most – the people of Brighton.

Mr Lambor said: “It’s very much undecided. We are doing as much listening and researching as possible.

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“We will be leaving no stone unturned as to what it can be. We held a meeting this week with local action groups which was very helpful.”

He said the redevelopment was in a consultation stage and the company wants to employ people to “hit the streets” and find out public opinions on the site.

“We want to open up an access group in Middle Street, if that is something we can do safely,” Mr Lambor said.

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“We think it’s important for people to be able to see the space and be able to interact with it. We want the development to be as inclusive as possible. It’s an incredible site and there is a lot of pressure on us to do it justice.”

While it is not possible to show people around the auditorium just yet due to safety concerns, he hopes a viewing point can be set up early next year so people can see the building before giving their opinions on what could be done with the site.

“The Hippodrome has been locked away from the people of Brighton for too long,” Mr Lambor said. “Everyone is excited. We just need to get the right plans together that are viable and actionable, and will save the building for future generations.”

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However, he admitted the hippodrome had been allowed to fall into a dilapidated state in recent years.

Mr Lambor said: “It’s not in a good way really. Unfortunately there have been some large leaks.

“The wet winters have resulted in a lot of water getting into the building.

“And there was no ventilation in the building which has resulted in dry rot in some areas.

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“We have managed to get some in there now and make it water-tight, and it’s a lot better than it was.”

He also explained that the fibrous plaster used for the site’s signature roof detailing was in bad shape and it could cost millions to make it safe.

A full report on this is being compiled by specialists from Bristol, who will provide an update on the state of the roof next month.

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“The condition of the fibrous plaster means there’s some serious urgency for us to get our plans together,” Mr Lamborn said.

He also explained that the existing domed roof may need a “super structure” built around it to provide extra support and make it safe.