POLL: Winter Gardens sold for just £1 - have your say
PUBLISHED: 10:00 15 January 2015 | UPDATED: 16:42 15 January 2015
IT HAS been decided the iconic Winter Gardens will be sold to Weston College for the same price as a McDonald's McFlurry - just £1.
North Somerset Council voted in favour of handing over the venue, registered on the council’s asset list as being worth £11million, at its full council meeting on Tuesday.
At the meeting many councillors expressed their ‘disappointment’ at the lack of public consultation, so, here at the Mercury, we’re giving you the chance to have your say on the planned development.
The plans to redevelop the building into a university hub were first announced in October, and the development will see £15million worth of investment pumped into the building.
The venue’s original frontage will be restored, there will be a refurbishment to the hall to create lecture theatres, a court room, seminar rooms and a café created, as well as an additional floor built to include more teaching rooms and a gallery.
Reverend David Agassiz spoke at the beginning of the meeting on behalf of Weston’s Civic Society, and said: “We are encouraged by the progress made by Weston College and we would like to see their thriving reputation continue, we are also in favour of regeneration of the town centre. But there are some questions which we have not had sufficient answers about.
“We have had the decision made without a full public consultation and even without consulting the council.
The authority’s executive member for finance, human resources and asset management, Tony Lake, said the lack of public consultation was due to ‘time pressures’ set by the college’s funding source - the West of England Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP).
But councillor Mike Bell said: “I am really disappointed with the situation we are in.
“We have heard all sorts of excuses, that there was a time pressure, and yet, we are expected to hand over £11million worth of community assets with no consultation with the public.”
Cllr Lake said: “Had we gone through a longer consultation period it is clear the funding would almost certainly have been lost.”
Councillor Mark Canniford said: “I think it is such a shame because I think the public will go with this, I think the public are happy with this, they just want to be involved.”
Concern was raised over how the transfer of the Winter Gardens to the college would impact community use of the venue but Cllr Lake vowed it will be ‘protected’.
He said: “There will be detailed measures in place to make sure the public have access.”
Councillor Ian Porter said: “It’s rubbish to say the college wouldn’t allow community use. You have only got to look at the current college buildings as an example of how they are used throughout the year.”
What do you think of the college’s plans to transform the building? Vote in our poll and have your say by commenting on the post below.
For a full report of the council’s decision pick up a copy of today’s (Thursday) paper.