The future of the Ventnor Winter Gardens in Ventnor looks set to be secured and the building transformed into a first-class leisure and entertainment facility. It follows a deal between owners the Isle of Wight Council and Robert Thompson’s Hambrough Group.
Under the agreement, proposed in a delegated decision report issued today, Robert Thompson’s Hambrough Group will commit to a massive financial investment in modernising and improving the site and also guarantee it remains accessible for community use for at least a decade.
The new owners will invest over £1 million in the current building to create two high-quality dining outlets and a refurbished and upgraded auditorium.
The company, headed by Michelin starred chef Robert Thompson who runs the nearby Hambrough Hotel, also plans to add two new wings to the building to create new hotel accommodation and is also considering spa and exhibition facilities, increasing the overall investment to around £3m.
The Robert Thompson bid was chosen as the best of three received after the building’s availability was advertised on the open market. This assessment panel included representatives from Ventnor Town Council and a Ventnor IW Council ward member. The proposals now being considered have the support of the Town Council and both ward members.
Because of the scale of necessary investment needed in the building – £650,000 just to bring it into a reasonable condition – planning restrictions that limit its future use and the conditions the council will insert into the sale agreement to secure future community use, the building will transfer to Robert Thompson’s Hambrough Group for the nominal fee of £1 – the fee offered by all three of the shortlisted groups.
Cllr George Brown, IW Council cabinet member for the economy and the environment said the deal was the best for the community. “At a time when the council does not have the funds that this building requires, we have on the table a deal that will unlock massive investment into transforming the Winter Gardens.
“Where now we have a building that, because of the pressures on public finances has become frankly, run-down and closed to the public we will have a thriving dining, leisure and entertainment complex that can be enjoyed by the community and that will be a real asset to Ventnor and to the Island.”
Cllr Brown said: “I am sure most people will agree that in the current economic climate the council must prioritise its limited resources on areas such as social services and education. It is not – and should not – be in the business of spending very large amounts of money refurbishing and then running entertainment venues.
“I believe that is the job of others and we are delighted that the Robert Thompson’s Hambrough Group has both the means and the imagination to transform this building.
“This will mark an exciting new chapter in the story of the Winter Gardens and hopefully the town.”
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