Winter Gardens: Seafront traders react to £10m lottery rescue
- Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021
There's no doubt the Winter Gardens is a blot on an otherwise cheerful landscape - spoiling the bright and breezy seafront with its worn out looks.
And for people trading in the shadow of the giant rusting hulk of metal and glass it's reinvention cannot come soon enough.
Towering head and shoulders over the Merrivale Model Village with its neatly trimmed gardens and blooming flower beds the empty building has been a source of frustration for owners Frank and Frances Newsome.
The couple who took over the gardens and its pint-sized population four years ago said they were delighted it was set for a new lease of life following the National Lottery's £10m award to guarantee its future.
Mr Newsome said it had the potential to enhance the whole seafront as long as it was properly thought out and the money spent wisely.
"The first thing people say is 'what's happening to that building next door?', he said.
"We haven't been able to say and last winter the whole back end collapsed.
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"What will be good is to have another attraction open in the winter because at the moment it is just us and the Sea Life Centre."
Caricature artist David Spaul dashes off a quick turnaround portrait on the seafront - but the Winter Gardens is likely to be a long haul with work not due to start until 2023 ahead of a 2026 re-opening to the public.
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In the 1980s he recalled climbing ladders to touch up the mountain peaks while roller skaters carried on whizzing around the rink below.
He hailed the funding announcement as "great news" adding: "The general feeling is 'what a waste'."
Meanwhile Andrew Hive at The Cookie Company also signalled his approval.
"It is part of Yarmouth and there is no way there will ever be a building like that again.
"People are always asking why it can't open and I tell them it will come back again.
"It is a fabulous space."
Steven Phillips at Coastal Gifts said when it was open the Winter Gardens helped to drive footfall at the south end of the seafront.
"It is good news," he said. "It has been wasting away.
"When it was open it bought a lot of trade. It is one of those buildings people are intrigued to go in, now it is the only eyesore on the seafront."
Lana Parr of Merrivale Treats said she had fond memories of the Winter Gardens as a night club and of taking her children there to the play area when it reinvented itself again. She said she was happy to hear it would be welcoming the public inside once more.
"It has been a shame to see it like that," she said. "It was lovely in its day."
One woman sunning herself outside her beach hut said it was especially pleasing for her because she moved up from Torquay, just like the Winter Gardens.
As a former member of the town's heritage society in Devon she was familiar with its history.
"I am absolutely delighted," she said. "I used to live in Torquay and I remember seeing pictures of it with all the men gathered there in top hats.
"People often ask what is happening with it and I always tell them that progress is being made because I want them to see Yarmouth in a good light."