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Fears eased over building

PUBLISHED: 12:39 01 January 2009 | UPDATED: 12:40 03 July 2010

BOOST: Experts believe Winter Gardens could be restored for same cost as demolishing the building.

BOOST: Experts believe Winter Gardens could be restored for same cost as demolishing the building.

EXPERTS reckon the seafront Winter Gardens in Great Yarmouth could be restored for the same cost as demolishing the building.

The grade two listed iconic structure was forced to close a month early for the season because of concerns over its structural safety.

EXPERTS reckon the seafront Winter Gardens in Great Yarmouth could be restored for the same cost as demolishing the building.

The grade two listed iconic structure was forced to close a month early for the season because of concerns over its structural safety.

Survey work by consulting engineers Scott Wilson suggested it might need a complete restoration costing £6.5m.

However, an inspection by engineers from the Morton Partnership - the country's leading experts on cast-iron structures - has eased the borough council's worst fears, which could have led to the building being mothballed or even demolished.

Tim Howard, the council's head of regeneration, said: “Following his visit to Yarmouth and having looked at reports already done by Scott Wilson, Brian Morton has taken the view that although the building needs significant work, it is not as bad as had been feared.”

He said Mr Morton was optimistic the Winter Gardens could be secured for a realistic time limit of 30 to 50 years without resorting to the expense of a complete, off-site restoration.

The council was now confident that the vital work identified - including worn metal and glass replacement and frame strengthening - could be achieved for about £500,000, the same cost as demolishing the building.

Mr Howard said the council was looking at ways of finding the money and a work plan was already being drawn up.

He said: “We will be looking at what work can be done before the season starts. The Winter Gardens won't be open by Easter but it may be possible to have it operating in time for the main season.”

The extent of the work would inevitably require a second phase next winter. The council would be looking to reduce the burden of future maintenance by such means as using durable paint.

“We are talking to external bodies, such as English Heritage, about the possibilities of securing grants to help with the cost,” he said.

It is hoped work could start by February and that the operator that leases the Winter Gardens from the council, Family Amusements, could have it running again in time for the summer.

Since it was bought by the council for £1,300 in 1903 from the authorities in Torquay, the Winter Gardens has been variously used as a ballroom, concert hall, roller-skating rink, nightclub, beer garden and, latterly, as a family entertainment centre.

Mr Howard has previously said that at the root of the problems was the fact that the Winter Gardens was essentially a “giant greenhouse” that was never envisaged to last more than a century.


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