Restoration work for the Hippodrome faces the prospect of going “back to square one” because of constant delays to a planning application, developers have warned.

Family-run development firm Matsim submitted plans to Brighton and Hove City Council in the summer of 2022 which would see the Hippodrome in Middle Street, Brighton, reopen to the public as a performance space with a rooftop bar and terrace.

However, some 18 months on from filing the application with the council, developers are still waiting for a decision.

Simon Lambor, director of Matsim Properties, said the company had already spent £5 million on the project so far to renovate and weather-proof the roof, but cannot progress further to restore the Grade II* listed site without permission.

He said: “We’ve talked to thousands of people about their memories of the building and it has felt like part of Brighton has been closed and cut off for so many years.

“We installed a new roof over the auditorium to allow us to get on with plaster stabilisation works below, but there are other areas that are unroofed and have dry rot that require structural work.

"We’re not able to get on with that work until this application is approved.

“As a result, we’ve spent this vast sum of money on saving the building but we’re having to watch every winter the basement fill up with water, with a summer of humidity which results in that water evaporating - with £1 million of plaster works at risk again.

“A year ago, we were having the same conversation - every summer we don’t have the envelope closed up, the works we have done to date are all at risk and we’re possibly back to square one.

“We just really want to get on and get it back open.”

Mr Lambor described the project as a “labour of love” and said Matsim would be prepared to go through whatever means to see it through to its completion, including “exploring other legal avenues”.

The Hippodrome started life as an ice rink in 1897 before becoming home to a circus, a theatre, a concert hall and, before its closure in 2006, a bingo hall.

In its heyday, the Hippodrome hosted acts including The Beatles, Sammy Davis Jr, Charlie Chaplin, Laurence Olivier, Chuck Berry and the Rolling Stones.

Current plans for its restoration and renovation would also see the construction of a new “apart-hotel” building facing Ship Street and up to seven storeys tall.

Mr Lambor said he would like to see the venue reopen to the public “as soon as possible”.

“The building has been vacant for 17 years now - that’s 17 years of lost performance. It’s a loss to the city. There’s a great big public benefit to seeing this brought back open that’s being missed by those in the bureaucratic sphere,” he said.

The Argus: Above the stage of the HippodromeAbove the stage of the Hippodrome (Image: The Argus)

A petition calling on the council to approve plans for the restoration has attracted more than 1,800 signatures in the space of a week.

Louise Turner from the Save Our Hippodrome campaign started the petition and expressed frustration at the constant delay to the application. She has urged the council to approve the plans to restore the “jewel in Brighton’s crown”.

She said: “We’re very perplexed by the procrastination of the council’s planning department. We don’t really understand what the obstacles are.

“We find it very strange that the current owners are coming up against so many bureaucratic obstacles when their intentions are far less destructive to the original fabric of the building than those of opposing groups.

“We strongly urge the council to do the right thing and allow Matsim to continue their fantastic work so that the doors of Brighton Hippodrome can open for the public to enjoy once again.”

Ms Turner said many residents of Brighton have shared their memories of the Hippodrome and have been “astonished and amazed” by the restoration so far during open days at the site.

“The frustrating thing is, the longer this goes on, it’s causing more harm to the fabric of the Hippodrome,” she said.

The Argus: Developers have warned that restoration work so far is at risk due to planning delaysDevelopers have warned that restoration work so far is at risk due to planning delays (Image: The Argus)

Alan Robins, chairman of the council’s culture, heritage, sport, tourism and economic development committee, said: “The Hippodrome is a nationally important and much loved listed building. Its renovation and development is of huge significance for the building and for the city.

“Our planning team has requested a number of amendments and additional information from the developer to address issues raised during previous public consultations on this application.

“These were raised with the applicant and our planning officers have been working with the applicants since to address issues and so work towards making a favourable recommendation when the application comes before the planning committee.

“The applicant submitted further information before Christmas and we have since re-consulted with key consultees on the information that has been submitted.

“One statutory consultee, Historic England, has asked for more time to consider the information.

“If it is agreed that this information addresses the outstanding matters, we will work with the applicant to finalise the proposal and take the application to the next possible committee meeting.”