Criticism of new plans for Winter Garden renovation

Conservative councillors have hit out at changes to plans to renovate the Winter Garden in Eastbourne.

Renovation of the Eastbourne Borough Council-owned building was set to be the final stage in a multi-million pound redevelopment of the Devonshire Quarter. 

As part of these plans, which were first granted planning permission in 2016, the Winter Garden was to be fitted with a new facade intended to enhance its historic character.

However, Eastbourne Borough Council has since submitted a new planning application which would instead see a ‘like-for-like’ replacement of the building’s existing frontage. The council says this is due to funding pressures.

In the application, a spokesman for the council said: “Whilst retaining the central ambition of the extant approvals to establish the sustainable financial future of the Winter Gardens, the extent and nature of the works proposed therein has had to be reviewed in light of the funding now available.

“As is clearly evident from its current appearance, the external facade to the first floor pavilion room is in urgent need of repair, with its 1960/70s...glazing panels broken and...fenestration in extremely poor condition. Furthermore, the existing structural support sitting behind this requires additional bracing … to stabilise the overall structure.

“Whilst the approved plans are to largely replace this facade treatment … current funding will not allow this to be implemented. 

“Hence, the proposal for now is to repair the existing facade on a like for like basis and in so doing improve both the thermal performance … and provide replacement fenestration that is better co-ordinated with the amended structure behind. 

“The proposed works will also incorporate strengthening to the first floor structure thereby facilitating its future use for functions and these works will be concealed within the existing floor depth.”

However, these revised plans have come in for criticism from the council’s Conservative opposition group. 

Conservative group leader Robert Smart said, “Because of the £20 million overrun on the overall Devonshire Quarter redevelopment, the Winter Garden has been allowed to deteriorate further and now the council are proposing a brutal modern design rather than the promised restoration.

“This is despite an additional grant of £1.6 million from the South East Local Enterprise Partnership to ‘restore the Winter Garden to its former glory.’”

When approached for comment an Eastbourne Borough Council spokesman said the work to the facade came as part of a phased renovation of the Winter Garden. 

A council spokesman said, “The development of Devonshire Quarter has given Eastbourne a world class centre for the arts, theatre, conferencing and international sport.   

“Within the scope of the overall project, the work to restore the Winter Garden is proceeding well in a phased manner. 

“Phase one is due to be completed later this year and has involved the refurbishment of the floral hall, the main entrance and foyer, toilets, a new lift to all levels, stage reconstruction and extensive technical and services upgrades.

“Phase two will deliver a new external façade, refurbished gold room and south pavilion, each renovated area reflecting the Winter Garden’s Victorian heritage. Many original features will be restored, including parquet floors, mosaic and terrazzo tiling and use of wall paint that matches the original scheme, following detailed analysis. 

“It is well known that the pandemic has had a huge impact on the finances of councils all over the UK, meaning that every service delivered, including the renewal of the Winter Garden,  proceeds with prudent consideration of agreed budgets.”