College's Winter Gardens plan changes ahead of final council vote

PUBLISHED: 09:00 12 January 2015

Plans for the Winter Gardens.

Plans for the Winter Gardens.

Archant

WESTON College's plan to add a four-storey extension to the Winter Gardens has hit a stumbling block after it was told it must stick to the venue's original layout.

The college’s extension block was designed to be a university hub as part of a scheme to regenerate the town centre.

But its funding source, the West of England Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), cannot provide cash for the scheme in its current design, meaning the college has had to re-think its bid and scrap the four-storey block idea.

A Weston College spokesman said: “The bid from the college to the West of England LEP is restricted to the current footprint of the Winter Gardens only, and does not include any four-storey buildings.”

The West of England LEP supports business growth in Weston and the surrounding area and is the college’s key funding source for the planned £15million development.

The college’s spokesman said: “North Somerset Council approached the college, which has a proven track record of developing quality builds within budget and on time, to consider if it would drop its new build plans and replace them with a redeveloped Winter Gardens option.”

The college’s principal, Dr Paul Phillips, said: “The college is highly supportive of this strategy - it demonstrates a continued and strategic partnership between the LEP, council and college, focussed on advancing the North Somerset agenda.”

The initial regeneration plan, pictured above, had included an additional floor above the venue’s main hall, an extensive restoration of the building’s original frontage and a four-storey extension facing the Town Square.

But this has changed due to the LEP’s restrictions and the college has now entered negotiations with the council to see if ditching plans for a four-storey block and undertaking a redevelopment of the existing £10million building would meet its needs.

The spokesman said: “The college governing body understands the current building requires significant repair and restoration.

“College governors discussed the approach from the council and are prepared to enter negotiations provided the facility can provide the state-of-the-art educational resources, as well 
as maintaining facilities which can be accessed for community use.”

North Somerset will consider a report from its executive which recommends approval for the college to take on responsibility for the Winter Gardens, in return for £1, at a full council meeting tomorrow (Tuesday).

The move has gained cross-party political support but the transfer of the Winter Gardens will remain subject to the college being successful in its bid to the LEP.

The council will also be discussing arrangements to ensure community use is maintained.

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