Since 2019, Gurminder Samra has managed Castle Hill suites, a banquet and entertainment venue. Dudley Council wishes to oust him, demolish the Hippodrome, and redevelop the area with a £25 million learning campus.
The 47-year-old stated that an appropriate offer for the property, the former JB’s nightclub, has not been made, and that alternative venues, including one in Oswestry, have been deemed unsuitable.
Wednesday, Dudley Council announced that preparatory work is imminent to secure the Hippodrome site prior to its demolition. Between 1938 and 1964, the 85-year-old structure was a mecca for the entertainment industry, but it has been vacant since 2009.
Mr. Samra is absent from work due to tension brought on by the Hippodrome dispute and the area’s uncertain future, with nearby Metro construction also causing disruption.
“It has given me headaches and nightmares,” he said. It is already difficult enough to operate a business when leaving Covid, but now that the cost of living has increased and fewer people are leaving, it is nearly impossible.
“We cover our expenses, but that’s about it – I have other enterprises as well, but I’ve worked in the entertainment industry for years and intend to continue doing so. I wish to relocate my family to Dudley and expand, not to close the banquet hall, although relocation is a possibility.
“Up to this point, we have been offered two valuations that just about cover what we paid for the facility, as well as a number of structures that are unsuitable due to their size or location. I would embrace a mandatory purchase order so an independent price could be determined.”
In March, councillors were informed that the university initiative was short £3.5 million in funding despite having received £25 million in Leveling Up funds.
The Dudley Hippodrome Development Trust’s Dave Homer accused the council of ‘railroading’ the project despite a lack of funding and disregard for stringent planning requirements.
“They are in violation of planning laws which state that demolition work cannot begin until a contract for the work has been signed, yet they appear eager to bring in the bulldozers immediately.
“A community area outlined in the original planning application has been converted into a diagnostic center, and the council is in conflict with the NHS over this.” Despite what [council leader] Patrick Harley claims, there is a great deal of red tape to be cleared before the building can be renovated.”