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Academy plans for Weston Winter Gardens

Weston College to restore iconic Winter Gardens seafront venue to attract more students to the town

Posted by Stephanie Broad | November 18, 2015 | Facilities & buildings

Weston College is to create a new Law and Professional Services Academy at the landmark Winter Gardens ballroom on the seafront in Weston-super-Mare, while restoring it to its former glory.

The West of England Local Enterprise Partnership has earmarked nearly £15 million for the project, which will see the 1927 neo-Georgian structure repaired and refurbished for continued use by the local community.

A new two-storey extension will be built containing multi-functional conference, hospitality, performance, and lecture facilities for the college and will continue to serve as an important local community facility.

Councillors on North Somerset Council have agreed to grant planning permission for the scheme, and the Winter Gardens will be formally transferred from the council to Weston College in spring 2016, having been sold to the College earlier this year for the nominal sum of £1.

The aim is for the Winter Gardens to be a catalyst for attracting more students to Weston, helping to create a vibrant town centre in which learning plays a pivotal part.

Dr Paul Phillips OBE, Principal and Chief Executive of Weston College, said: 'I hope this will make a significant contribution towards the regeneration of the town centre, and also secure a brighter future for this prominent building which will once again become a jewel in Weston's crown.

'This facility will meet the needs of employers, and continue to raise Weston-super-Mare's reputation nationally as a centre of excellence for education and training.”

When the Winter Gardens was built in the 1920s it included extensive gardens, a tennis court and a putting green, but much of the garden area is now covered by a nearby shopping centre.

The new design by View Architects for the historic structure will retain the original structure and façade on the western section, with the only significant alteration being the restoration of the original seafront entrance.

Although the footprint of the 1980s extension that backs onto the town square will remain, it will be raised to two storeys, modernised and clad to introduce a broader palette of materials and to upgrade the thermal performance of the building to reduce carbon emissions.

Extensive plant rooms located on the northern elevation will be replaced and consolidated with a modern, efficient plant which will allow most of the northern section of the building to be converted to seminar rooms. The structure will also be clad to enhance the environmental performance of the building.

To maximize the functionality of the building a mezzanine will be installed within the Prince Consort Hall, providing additional teaching and learning space at first floor level. At ground floor level the hall will be converted to provide a court room and two lecture theatres, with sliding partitions and folding seating to allow multifunctional use. 

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