Execs hand over Winter Gardens
PUBLISHED: 07:00 17 December 2014
WESTON’S £10million community hub the Winter Gardens has been handed over to Weston College by North Somerset executives without any public consultation – but the leader has given his word that community use ‘will be protected’.
Councillors have demanded more detail over plans to transform the seafront venue into a university hub but the authority says it must push forward with the scheme to bring life back into the town.
During Tuesday’s executive meeting, members said the proposal would return to full council in January for final approval.
The Weston College plan will see the Winter Gardens, normally used for tea dances, events and weddings, adopt an extra floor above the main hall, its original front restored, and a four-storey extension built facing onto the Town Square.
Councillors have welcomed the idea of a facelift for Weston but worry because details have been held back while the £15million scheme heads to the West of England Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) for funding approval.
During Tuesday’s meeting they appealed once again for more information.
Cllr Bob Garner said: “I’m keen for this university campus to be established but I’m puzzled where we will squeeze lecture theatres, tutorial rooms, staff offices and car parking.
“I think it will be inappropriate to hand it over without seeing what they will do with it.”
The council’s director for development and environment David Turner told members there will be ‘significant’ opportunity for residents and councillors to comment on the plans.
Executive member Tony Lake said: “We are not just transferring willy-nilly. They (the college) have to make sure the funding is in place, just like the Trop really, before we transfer.”
Within the executive report it says: “Provisional agreement has been reached with the college for the freehold interest to transfer subject to restrictive covenants limiting the use of the property to educational and community use.
“The council will be able to reacquire the asset or benefit from clawback should it cease as an educational establishment or should the college ever wish to dispose of it. Covenants will be included to deal in detail with the arrangements for public/community access. The actual transfer of the property will be scheduled for September 2015.”
Leader of the council Nigel Ashton said: “It has not gone through the LEP yet, we are asking for a lot of money. It’s important and it will be protected, that is why I want to make it absolutely clear it will be under protection and it will come back before council.”
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