It’s coming up to the three year anniversary of the closure of Ventnor’s iconic venue, the Winter Gardens.
Back in July we ran a detailed analysis of the then-current position with the Ventnor Winter Gardens.
No sign of any work
When the Conservative-led Isle of Wight council made the private decision to sell the building to its current owners, a condition of the sale – summarised here, but explained in detail below – was that its conversion to the hotel had to be completed 18 months from the signing of the contracts. Ink hit the paper in January 2013, so the building has to be completed by July 2014.
However, there has still been no sign of any other works taking place, despite the deadline for completion looming ever closer.
We got in touch with the owner, Kevin Sussmilch, and the council to find out more.
Gilbey: Lack of work is “unacceptable”
We asked whether the council were concerned about the building being left to degrade even further.
Councillor Jonathan Gilbey, Isle of Wight Council Cabinet member for resources, said:
“The lack of work undertaken at this prime site in the heart of Ventnor is unacceptable and not what was promised by the developer when it acquired the Winter Gardens from the previous administration.
“It is clear to me that it has broken promises made for the future economic prosperity of the town and I share the frustrations of local residents and businesses at the lack of activity.
“With the July deadline approaching fast, I would hope that we will start to see a start to the promised development of the building in the new year.”
Walk the walk?
Cllr Gilbey’s tone sounds quite encouraging, robust some might say, but will his comments be followed by action?
We started by asking whether penalties would be imposed on the owner should the building not be “substantially completed and open to the public by July 2014”.
No penalties built into the contract
Rather surprisingly we were told,
“There are no penalties applicable to the sale but the council has an option agreement to buy back the property for the greater of £1 or an amount agreed reflecting the investment made by the purchaser.”
As readers may remember, Cllr Stubbings told OnTheWight in July that these fees, which include ground work surveys, were then in excess of £200,000.
Will the council buy it back?
We went on to ask whether the council are considering the option to buy back the property.
We were told,
“This is a matter for Members to decide as the 18 months deadline is reached.”
Will the deadline be extended?
Finally we asked whether the owner, Kevin Sussmilch, has asked for an extension to the July 2014 completion deadline?
A spokesperson for the council replied, “No” and in answer to our question of whether the council would give any request for an extension a sympathetic hearing, we were told,
“This would be matter for the Cabinet to consider and it would only do so if such a request was received.”
Ventnor snubbed by the Isle of Wight council
With no penalties for leaving the building to rot, and it uncertain if the Isle of Wight council would buy back the property – don’t forget the council have to find £28,000,000 of savings over the next three years – it might appear to many that Ventnor has once again left out to dry by the Isle of Wight council.
We posed several questions to owner of the Winter Gardens, Kevin Sussmilch, but at time of publishing had not heard back. This isn’t unusual, OnTheWight has never had a direct reply from him. If he does reply, we’ll update you.