Thanet District Council launches search for a new operator for the Margate Winter Gardens

Thanet District Council launches search for a new operator for the Margate Winter Gardens

Thanet District Council has launched the search for a new operator for the Margate Winter Gardens today (Monday 20 November 2023). The council is working with commercial real estate firm Colliers to promote the Margate Winter Gardens to potential new operators and investors. The Winter Gardens returned to the council following its temporary closure in August 2022.

Colliers was appointed following a procurement and selection process. They will now carry out a marketing exercise to attract expressions of interest from organisations with the experience and expertise needed to make the Winter Gardens a successful leisure proposition for Thanet. The objective is to ensure that the Winter Gardens will be reimagined to play a central role in Thanet’s cultural and economic landscape for decades to come, while retaining the important heritage features of the building. A Heritage Significance Statement was commissioned, which can be viewed on the council website.

This is a two stage process. Firstly, operators are being invited to submit initial expressions of interest, and visit the venue on a pre-arranged open day. Thanet District Council is seeking offers from potential partners who can commit to restoring the Winter Gardens and retaining its importance as a leisure asset to the local community.

The council will consider proposals covering a range of leisure uses for the property. Residential uses will not be considered for the site.

Organisations who are interested in submitting an expression of interest can request a detailed marketing information pack, and arrange a viewing by emailing Colliers at Paul.Bugeja@colliers.com

At the second stage, which is expected to start in January 2024, all parties who have viewed the property will be invited to submit an outline of their vision for the building and how they intend to use it. A shortlist will then be created with selected organisations invited to submit a more comprehensive proposal.

Cllr Rick Everitt, Leader of Thanet District Council, said: “We are very pleased to have reached this exciting phase in the Winter Gardens project. I’m looking forward to seeing the creative and innovative ideas that we hope will be submitted as part of the marketing exercise. We are particularly interested to see proposals that really embrace the historic importance and design of the building, while enhancing Margate’s leisure offer.

“We recognise that the people of Thanet are passionate about bringing the Winter Gardens back as a leisure or performance space. We are committed to finding the right partner or operator – someone who has the experience, ambition and resources to reinvigorate the Winter Gardens as a cultural landmark, enriching the community and attracting visitors to Thanet for years to come.”

Paul Bugeja, director in Colliers Licensed & Leisure team, said: “The council is seeking a partner which can honour the history of the Winter Gardens, while also bringing it up to date and making it inviting to residents as well as visitors to Margate. We have seen how exciting regeneration plans for landmark buildings such as the Eastbourne Winter Gardens and De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill have revitalised coastal towns. We’re looking to secure a partnership with the vision to reignite the entertainment offering in Margate and deliver on the expectations of the local community.”

The council has engaged a clearance company, which has started to prepare for the renovation process by clearing any items which are no longer required from the Winter Gardens building. This is required to enable the comprehensive refurbishment of the building. Any items of cultural value have already been removed, and are now in safe storage. This includes artworks, posters and other memorabilia. The majority of the items removed will be recycled, to ensure that this process meets the council’s commitment to sustainability and responsible environmental practices.

In addition, some items will be sold by auction. Auctions will take place at 10am on Thursday 23 November, Thursday 30 November and Thursday 7 December at the Frederick Andrews auction house in Maidstone. Further information is available on the auctioneer’s website

The Winter Gardens was temporarily closed in August 2022 to allow an in-depth survey of the structure of the building and facilitate plans for a sustainable future. The project is part of the Margate Town Deal and long-term regeneration programme that will see £22.2m invested locally.

A short video about the council’s plans for the Winter Gardens can be viewed on Youtube

Further information and updates on the Winter Gardens project can be found on the council’s website.