The future of the Winter Gardens will be decided tonight

PUBLISHED: 10:00 13 January 2015

Plans for the Winter Gardens.

Plans for the Winter Gardens.

Archant

THE future of the Winter Gardens will be decided tonight (Tuesday) as North Somerset Council decides whether it will sell the iconic venue to Weston College for just £1.

The £10million venue has been known for hosting dances, weddings and charity events for the past 87 years, but now a major change could be in store.

The college announced its plans to transform the venue into a university hub in a bid to kick-start town centre regeneration back in October - in Weston’s biggest revamp since the arrival of the Sovereign Shopping Centre in 1992.

The original plan was for a phased development, including an extra floor above the main hall, a restoration of the venue’s original frontage and then a new four-storey extension facing a remodelled Town Square.

The first refurbishment phase will start on the hall, to create lecture theatres, a court room, seminar rooms and a café, and then another floor will be created on top, to include more teaching rooms and a gallery.

But, the college hit a stumbling block when it had to scrap its plans for a four-storey block after it was told it must stick to the venue’s original layout.

The college’s funding source, the West of England Local Enterprise Partnership, cannot provide cash for the £15million scheme in its current design, meaning the college had to re-think its bid and ditch the idea of a four-storey block.

The college’s plans gained cross party support and was described as a ‘welcome’ move but there were calls for ‘cast iron’ community guarantees from many.

Leader of North Somerset Council, Nigel Ashton, gave his word community use ‘will be protected’ when the council’s executive recommended the venue be handed over to the college without any public consultation.

Now, the proposal is set to return to full council tonight (Tuesday) for its final approval, as the £10million venue could be sold for just £1.

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