Early surrender of Winter Gardens lease to be discussed by council scrutiny panel

Margate Winter Gardens Photo Frank Leppard

The upcoming closure of the Winter Gardens in Margate and decision for Your Leisure to surrender the lease early will be scrutinised after councillors questioned whether the implications had been properly considered.

The venue will shut from August 14 and it is planned to use Margate Town Deal funding of £300,000 to create a fully developed plan for the site.

This would include a detailed project delivery plan with public and private sector engagement. Specialist services would be needed to help test the market and identify the opportunities available. Specialist architects would also be used to scope out the required works and develop a fully costed scheme.

Initially Your Leisure were to retain the lease which ran until 2024 but agreement was then made for an early surrender.

A report to councillors said: “By agreeing early surrender of the lease Your Leisure will incur additional unplanned costs in excess of £156k.

“Thanet council Cabinet agreed in January 2021 to fund investment in the heating system at the Winter Gardens at an estimated cost of £230k as well as the opportunity for a loan of between £0.700m and £1.5m. It was subsequently agreed to fund a temporary heating solution due to the ongoing discussions and to enable operation during Autumn 2021 and Winter 2021/22.

“This temporary solution has been funded at a cost to Thanet council of £63.5k, leaving £166.8k of the original allocation uncommitted.”

A decision was made to redistribute the £166.8k to Your Leisure to meet the potential costs associated with early surrender of the lease.

A report to councillors said: “With bookings now being paused at the Winter Gardens from 14 August 2022 a change of direction requiring Your Leisure to operate beyond this date will not be financially viable, without substantial extra funding, due to having to rebuild the programme.”

However Councillor Corinna Huxley has called in the decision saying reasons and an explanation need to be given.

She added: “There is no evidence that TDC has considered the additional costs Your Leisure will incur as a result of the surrender of the lease for the Winter Gardens or what attempts have been made to quantify them. Therefore, the report supporting this decision does not give any opportunity for members to judge whether this request is reasonable or appropriate.”

The issue will be considered by the council’s scrutiny committee on April 19.

Members could choose to make recommendations to be referred back to Deputy Leader Cllr Reece Pugh. He would then reconsider the decision and decide whether to make any amendments.

Theatre Royal Margate

Bookings are scheduled to pause at both Margate entertainment venues, with operator Your Leisure’s annual rolling lease at Theatre Royal ceasing on 28 April and now the hand back of the Winter Gardens lease after bookings are halted from August 14.

Staff at Margate’s Theatre Royal have formed a community events company in a bid to make sure shows continue and keep the venue open until its planned refurbishment under the £22.2million Town Deal fund.

The staff have formed Phoenix Community Events CIC with the aim of making sure shows continue to come to Margate and keeping the historic theatre open until its refurbishment date – which has not yet been set.

Winter Gardens update confirms closure ‘for period of time’ from August 2022

Theatre Royal staff form events company- and secure shows – ahead of proposed venue closure next month


  1. Margate Wintergreens, is an Entertainment Venue, years without cash injection, and maintenance, as the Venue has TWO (2x) Stages, money needs to be invested in DECENT UPGRADED – SOUND / LIGHTING and ASCETICS with Dreamland and its Scenic Festival Stage brining in the BIG ACTS, its the NO1 Music Venue, where as, Both Margate Wintergreens and Theatre Royal have been in severe decline, As a Music Manager, former Music Photographer, and someone who works in Thanet, I often ask big names, why they don’t add the area to their Touring Diary, and to be honest, most say, the venues need upgrading, their socials and ticket systems old fashioned, and there promotion of tours need improving.

  2. The Councillors need to question the costs. TDC Senior Civil Servants have on occasions “PLUCKED” figures from the sky and when questioned have said “quotations are confidential (give us time to type some out”)

  3. Bit pointless looking into the costs, was it not previously bailed out because TDC are on the hook to guarantee various costs including pensions? Another financial disaster coming to fruition.

  4. Im sure Sands inc/ incorporated will be sniffing around looking to secretly purchase it for peanuts it behind closed doors. Watch that space. Nothing changes if nothing changes!!!

  5. Danger of the Grant being swallowed up in professional fees before it gets anywhere near to being refurbished!!!

  6. Why did this group and people behind them not realize that the theatre royal cannot be reconstructed as it’s a listed building as pointed out want to change the entrance around to make the bar bigger.Theatre users would use the pub across the road during interval when busy.The theatre itself is original and performers and customers like it the way it is.

  7. Well we will never see these place’s open again after they are closed, we all know what Thanet Council are like, so many promises ,l will be very surprised to see them reopen, Thanet Council
    Will make some excuse then put them up for sale !

  8. If TDC is left to its own devices it will be knocked down and, possibly, turned into a car park. Or am I being unkind?

  9. what ever happened to all that money we donated to Your Leisure to “Save Margate Theatres”? Can I have my money back please?!

      • They are. Would love to know what they are spending it on. Certainly not theatre royal. I want my money back!

        • I can never understand, how a community group who now own the Oval bandstand & lawns are allocated £500,000 from the Margate Town Deal Board and they can only hold outdoor events and the Winter Gardens is only awarded £300,000 from the MTDB.
          Who on this board made these decisions?
          It just beggars belief!

          • They have upset a many many people. They don’t own it (they think they do so I have heard), they can hold events there but have to maintain it. It still remains a open public space.

          • Reply to Independantone

            Yes they do own it freehold, the 4 acre site plus bandstand, toilet block and kiosk.
            It was handed to them by TDC in a community asset transfer.
            Yes, it can be used for the public to walk across the lawns.
            The few locals who knew about it thought it was leased.
            You are correct about how they have upset many people and I think Cliftonville Farmers Market would agree.
            Most people I know, think it is now run more or less as a business.
            They have a bar at all their events and of course they have the
            £500,000 to look forward to.
            Their group covers just 8 streets.
            TDC should be ashamed of their actions in this transfer.
            The former group who were there for 25 years were in effect ‘booted’ out.

  10. How much more money is to be wasted on developing “plans” instead of actual building work! The Winter Gardens is very disabled unfriendly and outdated and it would probably be better and possibly cheaper to knock it down and start again. Give Margate an entertainment venue to be proud of.

    • A lot of people (including myself) are very proud of Margate Winter Gardens. As for being “disabled unfriendly”, there is a back entrance with a slope down to the promenade.

      • Oh Peter, I have to disagree with you about St. David’s Hall.
        I love Cardiff, the castle and most things there, but was so disappointed in St. Davids Hall.
        I had only seen it on Cardiff Singer of the World, so, was expecting great things. Alas, for me, no.

  11. The problem is your leisure I mean they are so poor at managing anything. Customer service is non existent and they haven’t moved with the times. You have better cheaper Gyms and they haven’t done anything to promote and market events better. Using the facilities better etc. When you use their services you understand there is no communication no one knows anything. It’s a joke really.

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