A multi-million pound plan to create a brighter future for Weston-super-Mare’s Winter Gardens has been approved by North Somerset Council.
Weston College will create a new Law and Professional Services Academy at the seafront site, while restoring the iconic ballroom to its former glory.
It is hoped this project will be the catalyst for bringing significantly more students to the town, and will play a key role in the council’s bold plans for a prosperous, modern and vibrant town centre, in which learning plays a pivotal part.
In 2015, councillors agreed to transfer the landmark building to Weston College as part of the council’s continued support and match funding for the delivery of the new Academy.
The West of England Local Enterprise Partnership has earmarked nearly £15 million for the project.
Redevelopment and modernisation of the building will include replacing part of it with a new two-storey extension containing lecture theatres, seminar rooms, meeting and conference spaces, offices and associated facilities.
The historic 1920s pavilion, ballroom and other parts of the Winter Gardens will be repaired and refurbished, and will remain available for wider community use.
Dr Paul Phillips OBE, Principal and Chief Executive of Weston College, said: “I am delighted that North Somerset councillors have granted planning permission for this exciting development.
“We were approached by legal companies who wanted to establish a law and professional services academy in the area.
“This facility will meet the needs of employers and continue to raise Weston-super-Mare’s reputation nationally as a centre of excellence for education and training.
“I also hope it will make a significant contribution towards the regeneration of the town centre, and also secures a brighter future for this prominent building which will once again become a jewel in Weston’s crown.”
North Somerset Council Leader, Cllr Nigel Ashton, said: “The expansion of further and higher education is central to our ambitious vision for the future of the town as a centre for the best of urban living, learning and lifestyle.
“This flagship project is a unique opportunity to inject vitality into the town centre through attracting new talent and a greater diversity of people to live in Weston, while addressing local skills gaps and creating new jobs at the same time.
“We really welcome the College’s proposals to give a new lease of life to one of Weston’s landmark buildings which will continue to be an important facility for the local community.”
The Winter Gardens is due to be formally transferred to Weston College in spring 2016.
Once the funding from the West of England LEP is confirmed, work will begin in the hope of opening the new academy later in 2016.