Mini Eden vision for Great Yarmouth’s Winter Gardens

Great Yarmouth's Winter Gardens could be restored and transformed into a 'mini Eden' project in a vision of the new mayor Barry Coleman, who has taken on the role of the borough's heritage champion.

Mr Coleman, who was elected mayor earlier this month, will work up his plans with conservation officer Darren Barker over the summer in preparation for funding bids to English Heritage and the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

Since the iconic grade two * listed structure was bought by the council for �1,300 in 1903 from the authorities in Torquay and floated round the coast on a barge to its new home it has had a variety of uses. including a roller-skating rink and most recently a family entertainment centre.

However, deterioration of its metal work and the wooden frame which holds the glass in place has forced the council to close the building for the past two years. Fears have even been raised the structure could fall down in high winds.

Mr Coleman said: 'As a tall glass and steel building, it really lends itself to its original use as a giant winter garden which could possibly be tiered.

'To attract funding we need to find a sustainable use that will bring an early 20th century building into the 21st century.'

He said apart from the cost of refurbishment, which had been estimated at up to �6m, they would also have to resolve the problem of the building tending to be very hot in the summer and cold in the winter.

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He said he would be visiting other places in the country to gain inspiration and appealed to the local business community to come forward with proposals that they might be prepared to support.

Mr Coleman said: 'We are at a very early stage and we would be looking for funding from 2013 onwards after the Olympics, which is taking up a lot of funding at the moment.'

Mr Barker said: 'Going back to a botanical use, like a mini-Eden project, would be quite a draw, and it might be possible to put up other greenhouses around it.'

He said as the Winter Gardens' listing had recently been raised from grade two to grade two *, it opened the possibility of a funding bid to English Heritage as well as the HLF.

A large capital bid was being considered which might allow the restoration of the Waterways as a focus for floral display as well.

'It would be really fabulous to recreate Yarmouth's reputation for planting and public parks and gardens,' he said.

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