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Chance for investors to rescue at-risk Winter Gardens

PUBLISHED: 11:39 08 March 2019 | UPDATED: 12:59 08 March 2019

The Winter Gardens in Great Yarmouth. 

Picture: James Bass

The Winter Gardens in Great Yarmouth. Picture: James Bass

Archant Norfolk © 2015

A popular seaside attraction listed as one of the UK’s most at-risk buildings could be saved thanks to a unique business opportunity.

Graham Plant, leader of Great Yarmouth Borough Council, has welcomed the plans.  Picture: ANTONY KELLYGraham Plant, leader of Great Yarmouth Borough Council, has welcomed the plans. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Closed to the public since 2008, the Winter Gardens in Great Yarmouth was last year named by the Victorian Society as one of the UK’s 10 most endangered buildings.

It is also on Historic England’s buildings-at-risk register.

A rescue deal could, however, be in sight after Great Yarmouth Borough Council said they were seeking an investor with “innovative ideas” to help make the Winter Gardens a “major regional attraction for future generations”.

They are now inviting tenders for a commercial partner or consortium to propose and run a sustainable business within the Winter Gardens, an appeal backed by the Heritage Lottery Fund - which has indicated funds for repair could be available.

Sir Nicholas Bacon says the refurbishment of the Winter Gardens would be Sir Nicholas Bacon says the refurbishment of the Winter Gardens would be "remarkable." Picture: Jamie Honeywood

Graham Plant and Trevor Wainwright, the council’s political group leaders, said: “We’ve had some exciting informal inquiries and now we hope to identify a commercial partner to place a Lottery bid with us.

“We hope to grasp this unique and outstanding opportunity to save a truly iconic national heritage gem and establish an enterprise in a prime location and really special landmark.”

Built in Torquay between 1878 and 1881, the Winter Gardens structure was dismantled for transportation by barge to Norfolk where it was re-built in 1904. It is said not a single pane of glass was broken during the removal process.

In Great Yarmouth it was originally used to house plant life and also served as a roller skating rink, concert hall and children’s amusement venue.

Sir Nicholas Bacon, president of the Royal Horticultural Society, said: “Victorians and their seaside developments were quite extraordinary. Places such as the Winter Gardens were one of the great rendezvous for people who wished to experience the seaside.

“Over the years it is sad that this extraordinary structure has fallen into disrepair and is not used. The refurbishment of the Winter Gardens would be remarkable.”

The council says it has no preference over the type of commercial end use suggested, and were actively encouraging a range of ideas.

The closing date for tenders is March 20 and those interested in investing are asked to call 01493 846153 or email stacy.cosham@great-yarmouth.gov.uk.

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