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Rescue plan for Winter Gardens

PUBLISHED: 11:17 24 August 2009 | UPDATED: 14:49 03 July 2010

A £750,000 restoration scheme to bring one of Norfolk's most iconic seaside buildings back into use is set to begin by the end of the year.

The grade two-listed Yarmouth Winter Gardens has been closed to the public and fenced off since a survey in October last year raised concerns about its structural safety.

A £750,000 restoration scheme to bring one of Norfolk's most iconic seaside buildings back into use is set to begin by the end of the year.

The grade two-listed Yarmouth Winter Gardens has been closed to the public and fenced off since a survey in October last year raised concerns about its structural safety.

Now, following a thorough appraisal by engineers from the Morton Partnership, the country's leading experts on cast iron structures, the borough council has submitted plans for repairs to the iron and wooden framework.

Tim Howard, the council's head of regeneration, said: “The council is putting up £500,000 and we are hoping to augment that with grant support from the Heritage Lottery Fund, taking the total to £750,000. We will be putting the work out to tender and aim to start on it at the end of the holiday season.”

Work is expected to continue throughout next year, with the building only likely to be ready for the council's tenant, Family Amuse-ments, to reopen at the start of the 2011 season.

Mr Howard said negotiations were continuing with Family Amusements, which was keen to resume its use of the Winter Gardens as a family entertainment area with children's play area and cafes.

He said: “The first element of the project will be to check that the lantern, the big piece at the top, which is already braced, is completely solid and safe.

“Secondly, repairs will have to be carried out to the wood and metal framework that keeps the glass in. Lastly, we will be looking at the metalwork and replacing corroded bolts.”

Mr Howard said a complete refurbishment of the Winter Gardens would cost £6.5m and the chances of securing that level of funding, especially in the current economic climate, were remote.

He said: “The work we are doing will be good for 20 to 25 years, but as there are parts of the building we won't be treating, there will still have to be an ongoing programme of repairs in the future.”

Once repairs had been done, the Winter Gardens would still have to close when the wind speed reached a certain figure, likely to be 40mph.

Mr Howard said that at the root of the maintenance problems was the fact that the building was essentially a giant greenhouse. When it was bought by the council for £1,300 in 1903 from the authorities in Torquay and floated round the coast on a barge to its new home, it had never been envisaged it would still be standing a century later.

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