A LEADING figure in the campaign to save Dudley Hippodrome from demolition has died aged 72 after a short illness.

Geoff Fitzpatrick, from Lydate Road, Halesowen, co-founder and chairman of the Friends of Dudley Hippodrome, died at around 7pm on January 3.

Mr Fitzpatrick, a former lecturer at Halesowen College, suffered a collapsed lung two months ago.

He was a key figure in the battle to save the landmark Castle Hill theatre after plans for its demolition were revealed in 2011.

The campaign he helped to start has collected a petition containing 35,000 signatures and the demolition scheme is currently on hold while planning officers prepare a new report for Dudley Council’s development control committee.

Mr Fitzpatrick became an outspoken critic of the council during the campaign, accusing the authority of being bloody-minded and out of touch.

Historian and fellow campaigner Dr Paul Collins described Mr Fitzpatrick as a fearless campaigner and added without his influence the building would have already been demolished.

The friends of Dudley Hippodrome group has vowed to carry on the fight in memory of their chairman.