Bournemouth council votes to tear down Winter Gardens

The Stage

Bournemouth Winter Gardens’ fate has finally been sealed after the town’s borough council voted in favour of demolishing the 69-year-old 2,000-seat venue.

The local authority has taken the decision to tear down the building in the spring and replace it with a smaller venue and housing. It has been under threat of demolition for much of the last three years. Other proposals still being considered include a car park, educational facilities, a base for Dance South West, an arthouse cinema and shops.

Supporters of the Winter Gardens have accused the current Liberal Democrat council of reneging on promises to revamp the building made in 2003 when they wrested control of the borough from the Tories.

Rod Kennedy, an opera singer and chairman of the Winter Gardens Trust, insisted that his campaign to save the Winter Gardens would continue. Speaking to The Stage, he said: “It is not over yet. Demolition would be premature. They are not due to start rebuilding until spring 2007. In my view the plan is a collection of rabbit hutches.”

Once the venue is flattened, the council wants to turn the site into a temporary 120-space car park prior to redevelopment beginning, and Kennedy claimed that the trust’s proposals for the site have not been fairly considered. “The goalposts have been moved and the playing field has been tilted, right the way along,” he added.

The council insists that the disused building costs £80,000 a year to maintain and demolition would save money and prove that it is serious about redevelopment.

It argues that the Bournemouth-Poole conurbation, which boasts the Bournemouth International Centre, the Bournemouth Pavilion, Poole Lighthouse as well as the Winter Gardens, currently has one large venue too many.

A council spokesperson said: “This plan will provide the missing link for the area. Our research identified a gap for smaller scale, more innovative arts events including music and dance.”

“Every possible source of external funding has been explored. In this development, the spirit of the Winter Gardens can live on, with culture opened up to all in an accessible and inclusive way.”

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