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Great Yarmouth Borough Council awarded £12.3 million to restore UK's last historic seaside Winter Garden

The National Lottery Heritage Fund has awarded £12.3 million to Great Yarmouth Borough Council to deliver its vision for the Winter Gardens - Reimagining the People's Palace, a bold and inspiring programme, restoring a unique historic building to its former glory.

The Winter Gardens is the last surviving Victorian ironwork glass house on a seaside promenade in the UK and, in 2021, was one of five transformational projects across the country to be given a Heritage Horizon Award from the Heritage Fund.

Combined with £4 million of investment from the Government's Town Deal Fund, it means the final stages of detailed design will get underway in the coming weeks ahead of the restoration work.

With the council having secured planning permission and Listed Building Consent in November, the Grade ll* listed Winter Gardens can now undergo careful and considered replacement of its original features, including cast and wrought ironwork, lost details of timber screens and all recapturing its past grandeur, combined with new services for the community.

Sustainability is core to the project, redeveloping a place where visitors can engage and learn about the environment. The beautiful indoor gardens will take people on a journey, showing how plants have shaped our history and define our future.

Some of the innovative sustainability aspects being integrated into the project will see the Winter Gardens having passive ventilation and de-stratification fans, rainwater will be harvested for irrigation, planting - both inside and out - will create shade, while heating will come from low carbon air source heat pumps and underfloor cooling.

The rejuvenated Winter Gardens will also feature community spaces, cafés and opportunities for leisure, entertainment and learning. The goal is to breathe new life to the heart of one of England's most iconic seaside towns.

Councillor Carl Smith, leader of Great Yarmouth Borough Council, said: ''We are absolutely delighted The National Lottery Heritage Fund is providing the Winter Gardens project with this additional funding. Such an important and complex piece of work would simply not be possible without the Heritage Fund showing this level of support for the vision for the building.

''Great Yarmouth's Winter Gardens are an integral part of our history and loved by generations of people - not just in the town, but across the region and beyond. This exciting regeneration will be a stunning addition to what we are able to offer residents and visitors and demonstrates our commitment to regeneration in the borough.''

Simon Thurley, Chair of The National Heritage Lottery Fund, said: "This is an exciting and pioneering project, part of our Heritage Horizons programme which focuses on supporting transformation in heritage. The Winter Gardens holds more than a century of history within its soaring cast iron frame, and this award enables it to be conserved and valued, for now and the future. 

"The renovation leads the way for the Heritage Fund's strategic ambition to champion large-scale and long-term innovative solutions to strengthening heritage to be adaptive, financially resilient and contributing to the community and economy of Great Yarmouth.

"Over the next 10 years, we aim to invest £3.6 billion raised for good causes by National Lottery players and this programme is one of the ways we can support projects of all sizes across the UK to make a decisive difference for people, places, communities and the natural environment."

As part of the development of the plans for the Winter Gardens, the council has been working with the local community to share its plans for the project and listen to input and ideas from the public to help ensure the revamp is the best it can be.

Community consultation around the proposals included Great Yarmouth Civic Society hosting a special presentation about the project and the council's team met with the Great Yarmouth Local History and Archaeological Society to update people on designs for the building. Groups of young people were also given tours of the site and took part in projects to discover what they wanted to see as part of the revamp.

The designs for the repair and refurbishment of the Winter Gardens, were developed by the design team at architects Burrell Foley Fischer (BFF), in close collaboration with the council, other specialist partners and stakeholders.

Faye Davies, Managing Director, Burrell Foley Fischer (BFF) Architects, said: "This stunning and iconic building holds national significance, yet it finds itself on Historic England's Heritage at Risk Register, progressively deteriorating. We are delighted that our scheme to fully restore it, preserving it for future generations has received funding support from The National Lottery Heritage Fund.

''Collaborating with Great Yarmouth Borough Council, we have embraced their vision of returning it to its former glory; a vibrant people's palace at the heart of the town's life, economy and historical legacy."

Despite not having been open to the public since 2008, the Winter Gardens were previously a symbol of the golden era of the seaside, hosting a range of seaside entertainment from concerts and dancing, to roller-skating and arcades.

The detailed designs for the restoration, which is due to be completed in 2027, will be prepared ahead of appointing a contractor for the project.

And, once work gets underway, the project will provide skills and training for 95 young people including those not in employment, education or training. There will also be six paid placements in heritage and conservation, and six paid apprenticeships in hospitality, catering, business skills and horticulture.

Last modified on 04 April 2024

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