'Iconic' Winter Gardens will be safe

PUBLISHED: 12:00 04 January 2016

The first meeting of the community access board.

The first meeting of the community access board.

Archant

THE first meeting of a group set up to protect community access to the Winter Gardens has taken place at Weston College.

The college in Weston-super-Mare is set to transform the iconic seafront venue into a law and professional services centre in 2016, after North Somerset Council handed the building over for £1 in 2015.

Concerns over public use of the venue were raised at the time, prompting the creation of a new community access board.

The college’s chief executive and principal, Dr Paul Phillips, council chief executive Mike Jackson and councillor Sarah Codling are all on the board, alongside other community representatives.

Dr Phillips said: “We have been considering the community use aspect of the Winter Gardens since the council first approached us with the transfer proposal.

“Our plan has always been to preserve and enhance the seafront-facing side of the building, and to carry out significant repairs to this historic building.

“The ballroom will be more than protected, it will be enhanced, and will be better than ever.”

The board was told how there were 80 public events at the Winter Gardens last year, 40 of which were linked to the college.

The committee plans to grow the use of the ballroom and a dedicated marketing and events team will be created to run commercial events.

Cllr Codling said: “We now have a real opportunity to provide so much more for people, and to ensure that the community is able to fully use and enjoy this treasured and iconic venue for many years to come.”

The college’s plans – which were approved by the council in October – will see £11million pumped into the building, extending the 1980s portion of the venue and refurbishing its 1920s pavilion.

The college is still awaiting funding confirmation from the West of England Local Enterprise Partnership, but current operator Parkwood Leisure is scheduled to vacate the premises at the end of January in readiness for contractors to move in to begin renovations.

A first student intake is expected in the building in September.

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