Letter: Where’s the shiny new Winter Gardens we were promised?

This letter makes it clear there’s at least one Ventnorian that feels conned by the re-opened, repainted Ventnor Winter Gardens. Where’s the fancy hotel and restaurants that won the bid, they ask.

Winter Gardens From Above

We always welcome a Letter to the Editor to share with our readers. If you have something you’d like to share, get in touch. This from a Ventnor resident who has asked to remain anonymous. Ed

So … our Winter Gardens finally opens its door, over three years after the council closed them in 2011.

As we all know, once the building was closed the council put it out to tender and the lucky winning bidder managed to buy it for just £1 … not forgetting the promise it would remain accessible for public use for at least 10 years!

The final stages of the tender process saw three bids battle it out for the golden prize!

The finalists
Bid One: A community effort that would see the Gardens get some remedial work carried out … a lick of paint etc and continue on as before … providing somewhere for the community to gather and socialise.

Bid Two: Two locals with business skills and money behind them. They planned a pragmatic approach … keep the Gardens open over the summer of 2011 … but during the winter months spend their cash (I remember a figure of £100,000 being mentioned) on renovation … bringing the building up to standard ready to open for spring 2012.

Bid Three: The shiny, shiny, multi-million pound bid from The Hambrough Group. Total renovation of the building … two new hotel wings … two restaurants … a plush multipurpose auditorium.

What we’ve ended up with
Fast forward to May 2014 and what do we have? Pretty much the same thing we had three years ago …. and frankly, I feel conned.

I know … of course it’s great the Winter Gardens are finally open again and no longer left to rot … as they have done for the last three years …. and I know the plans had to be scaled back (what was it again, economic situation?) … but where’s “high-quality dining outlet” that was promised.

I thought this place was going to aspirational .. somewhere that makes you feel good … where staff make you feel special … not a soul-less bar where they’ve bought a few twigs of the cheapest furniture possible and stuffed some Ventnor weed in old wine bottles!

Granted … the building has had a lick of paint and the windows are no longer boarded over … but apart from that, it doesn’t look any different to how it was three years ago when it closed.

We’ve ended up with exactly what the group of volunteers offered, but two years later … and it’s not owned by the community any more, but by a bloke that only offered to keep it open to the public for 10 years!

It’s not what was promised
It’s all very well for the owner Kevin Sussmilch to cry about the economic situation … but he promised to spend £1m to 3m on this building and land that he was given by the IOW council for £1.

The way I see it, all he’s done is the same as what the other two groups had planned to do … the difference being that he’s done it two+ years later.

Mr Sussmilch needs to do a lot better than this to win back my support. I thought we were getting something better than what was there before.

Friday, 16th May, 2014 8:25pm


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24 Comments on "Letter: Where’s the shiny new Winter Gardens we were promised?"

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Island Monkey

The usual Isle of Wight council shambles. Did the last administration get anything right?

Robert Jones

“Did the last administration get anything right?”

I love a simple question; so much less taxing than having to think, when the answer hits you plumb on the snoot….

No. No, it didn’t.


Spot on. Mr S has taken us all for mugs, exploited some college students and generally let the town down. Now we need the ‘all new’ independants to get off their collective backsides and do something about it.


There’s a major problem for the Independents with this one. Their deputy leader, Steve Stubbings, was intimately involved with the selection of Kevin Sussmilch as the preferred bidder.

Given this, it’s all the more important that they act as their contract allows and take this building back from the owners when the time arrives this summer.


Regardless of the past, Steve Stubbings, along with the present Ventnor Council,have taken a sensible approach to Hambrough, and the reasonably good intentions appear to be working their way through.


Mr Stubbings local councillor is, as ever, missing in action again!

steve s

Cllr Perks is the local councillor.


And didn’t Cllr Perks as he is known now ,as one of the last people to run the bar owe thousands in unpaid rent? Which maybe if he paid it, there would have been a better chance of it staying open?


Steve. Don’t be a prat. You are a Ventnor councillor – hence local. So, as I said, get off your backside and do something.

steve s

The County Press reports the following:
“Next month, the auditorium is expected to open, catering for up to 300 restaurant guests or an audience of 750 for music events.”


So, the council is monitoring the situation by reading The County Press? As a local Steve. Don’t you feel even the slightest bit annoyed about the whole affair?

steve s
CB500 Yes. As a local, as an Isle of Wight Councillor and as a Ventnor Town Councillor I’m deeply disappointed that The Hambrough Group have not (yet) delivered on their promise. If only I knew who you were, I could apologise to you personally for allowing this to happen. Why not get in touch and we can discuss what you see as the best way forward from… Read more »

Thanks for a straight answer ( although the ‘yet’ really bothers me ). I may just send you an email.


This is a miracle, the auditorium used only to hold 400 and the acoustics were dreadful.

Malcolm Young

Rather pleasant sat there today having coffee, reminded me of the old days except that the coffee was decent.

Still think the place belongs to a dying generation and it should have come down and something else built.

David Ballard

Give it time. Ian is on the right track. Slowly but surely.


It’s not about ‘Give it time’, the owner has had time.

It’s not about ‘slowly, but surely’.

It’s not about the people who have been drafted in to now run the place.

It’s about the owner of the building who committed to spend £1.3m ‘immediately’ on taking possession of the building to build a hotel, in exchange for getting it for £1.


What is the current potential redevelopment value for luxury apartments (like the old Rex Cinema)of the site bought for £1? Who were/are the real suckers?

Can I be the first to offer £3.50 for the next ‘sell off’? So a big whoopee for the fact that a fabulous and proud building that used to give ventnorians a great deal of pleasure was sold for a quid and then almost half of the ten year pledge was spent dilly dallying about trying to keep the plebs happy till the day comes when it… Read more »
The most important thing is the Winter Gardens are now open again. The WG should never have closed in the first place and this proves it. The main hall is being given a facelift and the railings are going back up. At least it is open, let us move on from there. The bar has been freshened up and looks clean and nice. I hope the prices… Read more »
kevin barclay-jay
Steve did a very credible job and worked very hard to keep The WG after The Kung FU fighter and the cowboys successfully ran it into the ground…. Save it for who…the problem all along was that nobody in Ventnor used the place…that won’t change now Case in point…Millys post being positive about it being open ….8 dislikes. Use it or lose it and the WG is… Read more »

Nobody used it? What rubbish.

Michael G
The winter gardens was used by locals. The reason the ventnor council had to close it was because of decades of neglect by the island council. You couldn’t have expected their bar takings to sustain the massive amount of money that was needed to be spent on the building and the island council was also planning to scrap the £60k support they gave it each year. I… Read more »

I do hope IWC will be checking the legals to make sure that there isn’t a breach with the extent of the works.