Above: A computer generated image. The plans presented during the bidding process for the Winter Gardens included details of a 38 bedroom luxury hotel.
The Hambrough Group was selected as the preferred bidder for the iconic Ventnor venue back in 2011. Following a period of planning applications, the sale for £1 was then completed in January 2013. It re-opened in Spring 2014.
A spokesperson for the council told OnTheWight,
The initial 18-month period for the council to re-purchase the Winter Gardens, if it desired, has now expired and the owners are able to put it on the open market if they wish.
Stubbings: Possible regrets
Ventnor councillor Steve Stubbings was one of those on the selection panel choosing the preferred bidder.
Given that what was presented in the bid process – a hotel – has not materialised, we asked Cllr Stubbings, “Do you now regret voting in favour of giving the green light for the Hambrough Group to take over the Winter Gardens?”
“Knowing what we know now, quite possibly.”
Stubbings: Promises have not been delivered
We also asked, “If you had your time again, would you vote against them having it?”
“Clearly, what was promised at the interview has not transpired. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.”
Council didn’t act
If what was ‘promised’ at the interview has not transpired, many people OnTheWight have spoken to wanted to know why the Isle of Wight council did not challenge this when they could.
OnTheWight raised it with them and Cllr Jon Gilbey (the Executive member in charge) in the run up to the 18 month deadline, but never received a satisfactory answer.
Public use covenant has another seven years
If the Hambrough Group do decide to sell the venue, it’s important to understand there are restrictions on the venue in place until 2022.
The council spokesperson clarified,
Any new owner must abide by the following covenants until 2022, which are:
- To use the auditorium for arts, cultural, educational and entertainment activities and for no other purpose;
- To make the auditorium available daily on commercial terms between 10am and 10pm for use by local community groups and organisations for not less than 26 weeks per calendar year; and
- To manage and run a box office or reception area at the property at all reasonable times
The user agreement applies for the 10 years and after that the owners may submit a planning application if they wish, but any application would follow the usual planning process.