Council officers say Winter Gardens are ‘substantially completed’, so owner should keep it

Council told they no longer have the right to buy back the building because officers believe the owner has ‘substantially completed’ the proposed refurbishment in accordance with the agreed planning permission.

Winter Gardens

A paper going to the Property Disposal and Capital Programme Sub Committee next week reveals that John Metcalfe, Head of Economy and Tourism at the Isle of Wight council, believes the council is no longer able to exercise its ‘Buy back’ option for the Ventnor Winter Gardens.

January 2015 will be four years since the iconic Ventnor venue closed its doors and two years since the council completed the sale with the new owner Kevin Sussmilch, for just £1.

Delays whilst planning permission for hotel sought
Grand plans for the venue were revealed when it was announced the Hambrough Group, which at the time was fronted by a Michelin Star chef, had won the bid.

The refurbishment of two restaurants, a modernised auditorium, a 37 bedroomed hotel and even a spa were promised.

It then took another 18 months for revised plans to be approved.

Option to purchase
Within the contract signed between The Hambrough Group and the council was an option allowing the council to buy back the building if they felt the new owner had not substantially completed the proposed refurbishment by July 2014.

The paper states,

The council is only able to exercise this option however if the owner of the building has not substantially completed the proposed refurbishment of the building in accordance with the agreed planning permission secured for the building.

Owner states £1.2m spent so far
The report states a council surveyor has now assessed the work carried out this year and is satisfied enough work has been completed with Phase 1 of the proposal submitted by the Hambrough Group.

In the summary of works completed, the owner, Kevin Sussmilch, claims £1.2m has been spent on the refurbishment of the building so far.

Unable to buy back
Members will be asked next week to ‘note’ that because of this finding, they are unable to exercise their option to buy the building back.

Full details are given in the paper below.

Tuesday, 2nd December, 2014 6:07pm



Filed under: Isle of Wight Council, Isle of Wight News, Top story, Ventnor

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30 Comments on "Council officers say Winter Gardens are ‘substantially completed’, so owner should keep it"

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Who are they trying to kid? They’ve slapped a bit of paint on and that’s it – job done!?

We’ve been duped yet again!

They are all sharks.


No wonder the IW Council is in crisis with these officers!It is a case of what shall we do next.


Just shoot me now!

Don Smith

Bang! Bang! Got you.


How many people are aware that the council haqnded over a substantial amount of money to the Hambrough Group for roof repairs before any work was even done on the building?

binnel ghost

No joy in saying this but told you so. We were warned by his neighbours but all his backers said ‘give him a chance’ we gave him a chance and now look at it. still no community use and 1.2 million ! you have to be joking ! is that on planning applications for all the work they haven’t done? This is so so wrong.

Island Monkey

Another scandal for Private Eye? ‘Council sells valuable building for just £1.’

Where do they find these officers?

Residentify 2

the paint was done by unpaid trainees and it looks like it. no real work has been done but thats what this council supports. No action on undercliff, no action on East cowes sea wall,no action on cat eyes.

phil jordan
Residentify 2: Having seen the entire building both inside and out, which includes the atrium roof, I can see that quite a bit of money has been spent (especially inside)on the project. There is more to do, granted, but sufficient (in my view) has been done to demonstrate the Council does not need to buy this building back (at cost plus all subsequent works costs). The undercliff… Read more »
Phil. Substantially completed was taken by all to mean the rather large hotel we were promised. Has he substantially completed that? If not then any money spent surely does not come into the equation. If he had spent 1.2 million ( really?? ) on a diamond encrusted statue on the premises would that count too? Hate to say it but I voted for the independants and you’tre… Read more »
phil jordan
CB500: There has been investment in the building. Mostly inside I grant you but investment has been made. I’m not getting into what the last administration decided about all of this and we have other buildings (Ryde in particular) that has been a disaster since being sold a day before the elections in May 2013. In my view, there is sufficient work carried out not to want… Read more »
So, he has substantially carried out works as set out in appendix 2? You should just give up now if you truly believe that. Any chance of getting the opinion of your local colleague Mr Stubbings? ‘ Alterations including significant structural repairs and maintenance to upgrade and improve existing buildings facilities two and three storey side extensions to form 37 bedrooms and associated facilities hard and soft… Read more »

The problem with pragmatism it’s supposed to be about what works, but more often than not the choice taken is what doesn’t work.

phil jordan

If people are going to ignore facts and just mark down comments that are no more than factual information perhaps better if I refrain from posting….

Samson or Salmon

A politician with a thin skin. What ever next?

I though you were a bigger man than letting a couple of down arrows effect you Phil.

I think what effects Phil is people not thinking about and responding to what he has said. Red arrows/red comments, whichever, the point is why would he bother when some (for all we know ‘one’) is just trying to grandstand over him for the kudos of saying ‘Look at me, I’m having a go at a councillor!’ The inconvenient truths that a) the current administration had nothing… Read more »


@phil If you’re going to stick your head above the parapet, you will get shot at! The arrows don’t always mean anything here…and everyone gets treated the same, councillor or not. There were all sorts of committments made with the Winter Gardens and progress is pitfully slow. People here use their own eyes to judge and don’t let so called facts get in the way. The council… Read more »

Staggering and speechless, i honestly thought we had reached the bottom some months ago but this, this really does take the biscuit!


I am also staggered and speechless!

What’s to stop the owner not going any further with the development once the council have washed their hands of it? ie. the grand plans that dazzled the judging panel not actually materialising.

What he’s done so far, was promised by the other bidders, but they planned to do it two years ago.

food lover

err yeah .. and what happened to the michelin starred chef that was promised

Billy Builder

Britass Empire – Is an ex-leisure centre manager the right person to adjudicate on the condition of a building – I thought this was a Chartered Surveyor’s job

It reassuring to know we have the right expertise at the top !

The Auditor
Looks like the IWC have been outsmarted yet again. After reading the documents and reviewing the planning application, it appears that the minimum amount of work to avoid a Council buy back has been completed. It is probably impossible to verify the true value of work so it is immaterial whether the owner says he has spend £1.2M or £9.48 plus VAT (Ventnor Added Tax). The Winter… Read more »
The council wanted to offload the WG because it was costing too much to run, needed a great deal of work and was not being managed in such a way that it would improve it’s sustainability. They chose to sell it (I still suspect there was only ever going to be one outcome but compliance said a minimum of 3 bidders was required)to somebody with a big… Read more »
Arfur Daily

What will cause more upset is when he puts it on the market for £1.5 – 2 million. Now that the council have given him a green light, I predict that is exactly what he will do.

A nice little earner my son.


Or bundle it to make up a portfolio of The Pond, Hambrough and a couple of other properties they own, and sell it for a much higher yield.

Having followed this debacle since the council decided that providing a place for the community to spend a few hours enjoying themselves was not financially viable, I am not shocked at all by this decision. From day one I said that this will end with another prime site going for a song, and earning a few bob for the new owners and stuff the community! I also… Read more »
Michael G
Well said Davimel. Now this public building has gone, it will never come back into the Island’s hands. The new owner was allowed to get away with not doing anything to it for a very long time and the most our local councillor Steve Stubbings seemed to get out of him was agreement to putting up some hoardings. Will we ever see the promised hotel and boost… Read more »

Going a bit off topic – If we can’t afford the Winter Gardens then how come we can keep subsidising the Haven to the tune of £100,000.00 or so a year? Do Phil and Steve like fresh fish that much?


Phil Jordan while we’re on the subject…..what are the ‘other factors’ which will have to be taken into consideration ( suitable weather conditions being a given ) before we can look forward to the Undercliff work being started in Spring 2015.
How does the Council define Spring ?