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Gala Mounts Legal Fight To Save Hippodrome

Coventry’s Phoenix Initiative could be put on hold for months following a surprise legal challenge against the planned demolition of the Hippodrome.

The building’s current owners, Gala Bingo, are launching an appeal in the High Court against the decision by the Department of Environment, Transport and Regions to allow the building to be cleared.


In its place would be a new entrance to the Museum of British Road Transport and a glass map of the world featuring different time lines embedded in the floor.

A Compulsory Purchase Order was served on businesses in the area after a planning inspector ruled that the former Coventry Theatre and other buildings in the area should be sold to the city council to make way for the £40 million development.

But Gala Bingo has announced that they are to take legal action to block the sale of their building.

They had been offered a site in a new building on a car park near Pool Meadow bus station.

Instead they have been told that there are grounds to challenge the order and the Secretary of State's decision.

Gala has therefore lodged an application to the High Court to have it quashed.

The company's legal advisers believe that the Secretary of State has failed to give sufficient regard to planning problems or explain why he considers the development will not be blocked by them.

Coventry City Council will need to secure road closure orders in relation to the Hales Street/Fairfax Street junction, which Gala believes will be a very controversial matter.

Gala has appointed London barrister John Steel, QC, to act on its behalf in the High Court.

Gala's chief executive, John Kelly, said:

"We were shocked and surprised at the decision to confirm the planning inspector's report, especially as Mr Prescott unreservedly accepted the contribution the bingo club makes to the city centre.

"We have a vibrant business here and we want to stay in the city centre. I think we owe it to our thousands of regular customers and particularly to our staff, who have soldiered on loyally through months of uncertainty, to fight his decision to the end."

Phoenix Initiative director Chris Beck said the move was primarily against the Secretary of State’s decision, but some time would have to be spent to prepare their own view.

He said:

“They will lodge an appeal and it will go the High Court.

“We understand that can normally take four to six weeks, but I’m aware it’s the holiday period.”

Mr Beck said that the threat that funding would be withdrawn if the project had not been completed by December 2001 had receded.

Previously, the Millennium Commission had stipulated that the initiative would have to be ready by the time the commission itself was wound up.

Any delay in the courts could therefore have severe repercussions for the financial stability of the Phoenix Initiative.

But Mr Beck said the Millennium Commission’s lifetime has since been extended, allowing more time to sort out the legal wrangles.

Supporters of the campaign to save the art deco building from destruction say they are delighted with the news.

Mike Newman, founder member of the Hippodrome Appreciation Society, said he was hopeful that the legal move could save the theatre.

He said:

“I was delighted when I heard the news. To mount a legal challenge against the public inquiry would have cost thousands of pounds.

“One of the biggest problems of the public inquiry was that the microphones in the council chamber were not working and a lot of people weren’t able to hear what was going on.”

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The Giant Card Company, Coventry

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CWN / Politics / Coventry City Council / 17 Jul 00

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This page modified on 10 November 2008 09:49:15AM