'It has great potential to once again support the local economy' - Seaside 'Eden Project' bid welcomed
Archant Norfolk © 2015
A bid to save a much-loved icon of seaside engineering have been welcomed by councillors.
Great Yarmouth Borough Council is set to send a plea to the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) asking for cash to renovate the Winter Gardens on Great Yarmouth’s Golden Mile.
The council is hoping to restore the building back to its former glory and use as a ‘temperate glasshouse’ which could see it become a mini ‘Eden Project’ of the east coast.
A council committee agreed on Tuesday night to allocate £200,000 from reserves to draw up more detailed renovation plans if the bid for £530,000 from the HLF is a success.
In a joint statement, the council’s political group leaders, said: “We are competing for major national funds against some big players, so we aren’t taking anything for granted. What we do know is the Winter Gardens is a much-loved icon at risk that holds memories and stories for thousands of residents and visitors, it has great potential to once again support the local economy, and we hope the public will support the vision and get behind the bid.
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Councillors Graham Plant, Trevor Wainwright, Chris Walch and Adrian Myers added: “Recognising the huge value of the Winter Gardens to our economy, community and national culture, the council took proactive action in 2014 to regain control of this heritage gem with the ambition to bring it back into use as a viable and unique year-round tourist attraction.
“This is a large-scale, complex building of national importance, requiring major external funding to realise its comprehensive repair, restoration and sustainable re-use. Our exciting vision and funding bid represents a major milestone in that journey, reflecting significant ‘behind the scenes’ work and investment by the council in developing a compelling, comprehensive and robust funding bid.”
Proposals for work
The council should find out next spring if it has been successful, giving the council the green light to develop plans before submitting a second bid to the HLF for over £8m to carry out the works.
Described by heritage experts as a people’s palace of glass and steel and a seafront cathedral of light, it could re-open as a ‘temperate greenhouse’ in 2023.
The building has fallen into a state of disrepair since it closed almost a decade ago.
The derelict glass house is a Grade II* building that is considered “at risk” by Historic England.
They show a mixture of “multi-purpose end uses” to include education, conference and entertainment in a “temperate plant house.”
Artists impressions submitted in support of the bid show an abundance of green with a cafe and classroom.
According to the timetable the council can expect to find out in April next year if they win stage one approval under the annual “major batch” fund.
If successful the £12.4m project could be finished and ready to open in February of 2023.
This Grade II*-listed landmark has dominated the famous Golden Mile since 1904 and is of national significance as the UK’s last surviving Victorian seaside cast iron and glass Winter Gardens.
Since 2016, the council has invested £45,000 to develop a robust and compelling funding bid. With the support of experts, the council has completed a full structural survey to better understand repair costs, explored potential end uses, and developed a comprehensive and sustainable business plan.
Following this crucial pre-application work, the exciting vision approved on Tuesday by the policy and resources committee is to redevelop the Winter Gardens as a temperate plant house, opening up the space with multi-purpose end uses.
The estimated £12.4m project would see the Winter Gardens repaired and restored as a major regional tourist attraction, including exhibition space, a café and space for learning, exploration, participation and events.
The committee agreed to submit a bid to the HLF for £530,000, which together with a further £200,000 investment from the council, would enable the project to be developed for a stage 2 bid, following which the HLF could decide whether to release a further £8.7m grant for the on-site works. Alongside this bid to the HLF, the council will continue to explore other funding opportunities.
The Winter Gardens are the last surviving seaside Victorian cast iron and glass winter gardens in the country. The Winter Gardens form part of Great Yarmouth’s collection of Edwardian seaside entertainment architecture, a collection of national importance.