Next steps to lease or sell Margate Winter Gardens due to be discussed – with £6m estimated costs revealed

The Winter Gardens is currently closed Photo Frank Leppard

A specialist marketing agency is likely to be appointed to find a buyer/operator for the Margate Winter Gardens.

On Thursday (March 16) Thanet council Cabinet members will discuss the proposal for making the appointment and launching a marketing campaign to attract investment proposals from organisations with relevant experience and expertise,

But a report to council members says the search for a buyer and/or operator “does face some particular risks” with the likely repair, refurbishment and improvement costs for the site estimated at more than £6m.

The report says an immediate cost of £2.5m is needed for structural , building and mechanical and electrical works with a further £3.5m estimated over the next 10 years and total costs estimated at £6.25m.

Margate Winter Gardens Photo Mike Nichols

The Grade II listed building hosted its last performance on August 7 last year during the Margate Soul Festival before the lease was returned to Thanet council and the doors were shut in readiness for an appraisal report on the venue and its future uses.

Some £300,000 has been allocated from the £22.2million Margate Town Deal fund for the appraisal work. However, a previous report to Cabinet members revealed that the original Town Deal bid included a £4million allocation for works to the historic venue but this fell down when the government Department for Levelling Up – which issued the funding – asked for more detail on long-term plans which could not be supplied.

Currently, the site is ‘boarded up’ with security measures including screening and fencing in place on and around the building.

The measures have meant additional costs to the council of £56,270, excluding callout costs and Facility Management Officer time as keyholders. The council also expects to pay £26,000 in utility costs that were previously paid by previous tenant Your Leisure and statutory compliance and mechanical and electrical servicing costs of £108,000.

Closed off Winter Gardens Photo Frank Leppard

Security measures include twice daily patrols and full external patrols plus weekly void property inspections to check for damage or theft, squatters, or evidence of illegal entrance.

The detailed marketing pack will be aimed at securing an organisation to refurbish, improve, maintain and operate the venue.

The report to Cabinet members says: “The Winter Gardens is a significant heritage asset that has the potential to make a contribution to the economic growth and to the cultural, leisure and tourism offer available in the district.”

It adds: “Selling/leasing a listed building with such high socio-economical implications for the town can be a complex and challenging process. Therefore, it is recommended that a specialist agent be appointed to support the marketing.

“Agents who specialise in this field will have the necessary expertise and knowledge to navigate potential issues and ensure a smooth transaction. Appointment of a marketing agency will be subject to a procurement exercise. This approach is considered to offer the best prospect of attracting the quality of organisation and submission to successfully renovate and manage the Winter Gardens in a sustainable way.

“It is recommended that Cabinet retain an open approach to inviting proposals to come forward for a range of potential uses for the building, which could include concert hall, theatre, event spaces or leisure and tourism uses.

“Retaining a wide range of potential options at this stage is considered to offer the greatest potential for a viable submission to come forward that both enhances the heritage and cultural importance of the building and contributes to the economic regeneration of Margate and the cultural, leisure, event space and/or tourism offer available in the district.”

Margate Winter Gardens Photo John Pritchard

The council has also commissioned an evening and night time review of Margate and Thanet  by a specialist team from Counterculture to help inform decisions about the future role of The Winter Gardens. It is anticipated that this work will be completed in March 2023.

The council has so far spent or committed £97,635 of the £300,000 funding, completing survey work and estimates that a further £90,000 will be required for marketing activity, leaving £112,000 for further legal costs and any other requirements

Surveys commissioned to date include an unexploded ordnance risk assessment; asbestos air sampling survey; a laser survey for measured drawings and topographical survey.

Further surveys will include a flood risk assessment and heritage report.

Margate Soul Festival was the last gig at the Winter Gardens before it closed Photo Frank Leppard

An invite for the public to put forward their views on the Your Voice online platform resulted in around 200 questions. These will be included in an updated FAQ’s on the council website.

Following completion of the surveys, searches and studies and the completion of a marketing campaign a further report will be considered by Cabinet members setting out detailed proposals for the lease or sale of the Winter Gardens.

The meeting takes place from 7pm and will be live streamed.

Estimated timeline

March 2023

Finalise the Evening and Night Time Economy Strategy

Engage the marketing agency – draft and approve marketing materials

Update Cabinet on the marketing materials and the Evening and Night Time Economy and Strategy

Launch marketing activity to identify a commercial partner/operator

 April 2023

Host open days in the Winter Gardens for prospective commercial partners and/or operators

Finalise prospective commercial partners and/or operators questions and the due diligence process

 May 2023

Review proposals for the Winter Gardens, complete due diligence processes

June 2023

Provide recommendations to Cabinet


  1. £6m ? That’s pretty much what they have agreed to shell out on the white elephant that will be the new Margate High Street college.

    This could have paid for the Winter Gardens to be restored to its former glory.

    Such an opportunity missed.

    • No chance you could put it right and run it for 10 years for 6 million. It cost the council over 600k to convert Foy House into flats, does anyone see the wintergardens as a project only 10 times bigger? Done properly its 10-15 million as a minimum.
      They should just cut the ongoing waste and put it up for sale, there’ll never be the money within TDC to do anything meaningful with it. Then we can move onto the theatre royal which might be a possible success if the cash from the wintergardens went into it instead. What happened to the 7 million from the Dreamland sale?
      A disaster for thanet but i really don’t see it can remain in our ownership.

    • But the point seems to have been missed that TDC was in line for a £4 grant from Central Government (which would have covered the £2.5m for urgent repairs and still left £1.5m towards ongoing repairs for the next decade) – but TDC could not have the money because it could not supply any long-term plans for the buildings future.

      Pathetic !

  2. This is what happens in Thanet when Council doesn’t maintain anything for the town or it’s heritage. They just let everything rot until it becomes too expensive to repair then sell it off for peanuts so some developer can buy it cheap, then land bank it until permission to build becomes all but inevitable.
    ‘Putting Our Heads in the Sand’ should be the council motto !

    • Westwood Cross came along so they let the high street go to hell. Dreamland came along so all the money went to them-as despite reopening as a theme park they then stole the entertainment venue status from WG, with total support from TDC.

      • Who does these sums? why do they add the money that needs to be spent NOW with the money that will need to be spent in the future? They then act as if it all needs to be spent straight away. Surely the money spent now should result in some income before more needs to be spent. I know everything seems to be costing more and more but if we are ever to return to an economy that works then that spiral of increasing costs needs to be slowed down. It is very easy to make these situations look dramatically awful . Doing the maths this way is bound to put investors off!

    • This is so true, why was it left to get in such a bad state, especially as it was still being used as a venue. This will be a great loss for Margate and Thanet if sold to developers.

  3. No investment in up keep and this is what happens.

    It’s a wide issue throughout Britain.

    Money being given to contracts of mates of those In power- they don’t do the work and Britain crumbles.


  4. What a disaster TDC have made of managing and protecting the residents investments over the years.
    The Winter Gardens belongs to the residents of Thanet therefore the residents should have a greater say in what the future holds for this property.
    My personal thought is that if it costs £6m to restore and bring the building up to todays requirements then so be it.
    Have the council never heard of negotiating a commercial loan with an “experienced” person carrying out the negotiations and a cross party cooperation for the benefit of the towns.

    • It’d be around 300k a year just in interest payments, say 5 years until it reopens, 1.5 million and the fact that 6 million will achieve nothing meaningful , need to at least double it and if you were to do it properly , you’d not see much change out of 20 million. Then you’re in direct competition with Dreamland that has had umpteen million already invested in it and could easily do anything the wintergardens can much sooner.
      The place is finished. Might as well save the time, effort and money in coming to the conclusion in 2 years and divert them all into saving the Theatre Royal.

    • They would rather waste 6 million on another failed Ferry service-that already cost the taxpayers millions in the 2010’s.

      • Just think, the 6 million could have been available if not for the live animal exports fiasco. The ferry farce always gives numbers relating to unpaid bills by the ferry operator, so isn’t really a loss , rather monies not recieved.

    • It’d make a superb private gallery / exhibition space, but thanet doesn’t have the gravitas to attract anyone to do so. As a site for residential development it would ideally need its listed status lifting in order to maximise the value of the site to the council.
      Anyone want to take bets on it being sold off as a listed building and as such for a reduced price, the buyer then obtains reports showing the building is beyond saving and applies to delist and demolish. Lots of hoohaah long standoff then eventually developer gets their way?

  5. £4 Million of our money given to a private company called Dreamland decided upon by Eddie Kemsley, Chief Executive of Dreamland, who sat on the Margate Town Deal Board…you just couldn’t make it up!

    That £4 Million aswell as the £300,000 should have gone to repair Margate Winter Gardens as a much loved local asset used by all in our community and not given to a private business. I would get quotes from contractors that are not in bed with Thanet District Council who inflate their quotes because they know they can get away with it!

    • As the article says an application was made for a grant but wasn’t sufficiently detailed to be successful. Privately the council don’t want the wintergardens ( unless some benefactor gives them loads of money) they need dreamland to succeed given the amount of time and effort that’s gone into it, in addition it’s highly unliekly that thanet could support two large entertainment venues, one has to fail and it’ll be the wintergardens. Pointless waste of money paying experts to come to the same conclusion. As i’ve said above, the focus should be on saving the Theatre Royal , which will be deteriorating by the day.

      • Dreamland is only viable as a large entertainment venue in the summer as the indoor space isn’t big enough so we do need The Wintergardens. The Council works for us and should support our wishes, not the other way around!

    • There are lots of questions to be answered about past and more recent members of the Margate Town Deal board and how well their organisations have done out of the millions on offer.

  6. Not the same thing Daniel but years ago, a local carpet firm ,quoted to replace the flooring in my shower room ,at first they thought my house was a council house and not private ,a figure 4/5 times higher was given ,but greatly reduced when they found it to be private,and they quite happily stated the figures because the council is paying,if a firm can do that ,on flooring ,how much can be overcharging councils on other things

  7. Such a shame if the Winter Gardens and The Theatre Royal are lost for good. With all the massive housing developments going up in Thanet, and more people moving to the area, it would be good for Margate to become a great entertainment hub! I just hope the funds can be raised to make both venues great again.

  8. The two sites, Dreamland and Winter Gardens offer very different possibilities.
    Yes Dreamland can bring major artists during the summer, not so much out of season. The Winter Gardens, with the right owners/managers/promoters could still bring high-end shows and year-round attractions, there’s literally no similar venue(s) for miles. If a major-player like the O2 group took it on, I guarantee they’d turn it into a profitable business. The footfall that would bring into Thanet year round would bring much needed money to the currently non-existent night-time economy here. IF it stays in council ownership it’ll fall into the sea.

    • Be good if you’re right, but what sort of catchment area in population terms does such a venue need? Just that being stuck where it is the Wintergardens needs to go a long way to say have 2 million people in its catchment area. And i’d hazard a guess that by the time you’ve gone that far , london is closer/ easier to get to. Plus whilst yes it does have a different offering to Dreamland they will still be competing against each other on many days.

    • “If a major-player like the O2 group took it on, I guarantee they’d turn it into a profitable business”

      Really ! I am sure if large companies saw it as potentially profitable they would be all over it, the fact they aren’t says a lot more than your bet….

    • I Totally agree with you Simon . I compare WG with De La Warre pavilion at Bexhill on Sea which needed some much needed TLC and a reboot and now it draws throughout the year a diverse array of top bands / artists
      Btw . I’m surprised that Mr Checksfield hasn’t left a post on this subject as I know how he has an opinion on it
      and on most things … Lol
      In fact he’s been surprisingly quiet for a few weeks now ……. I wonder why ?

  9. This is the first step, to make a prime brownfield site in to expensive apartments, for the rich DFL’s.
    TDC has no interest in this iconic venue, as it does not produce revenue for the authority.

  10. What a surprise?! Shame on you TDC! You are not fit for purpose. Anyone who actually believed that you ever intended to carry out the restorations needed must’ve had their head in the clouds. No doubt you’ve intended to sell it off from the beginning.

  11. Would The Ambassador Theatre Group take it on as they do a fantastic job with Leas Cliff Hall in Folkestone? They seem to manage running it ok!

    • Daniel,I agree with you that they have done a good job at Less Cliff but they don’t currently get as many big shows there as they’ve had in the past .
      Plus I find the seats there very uncomfortable ,quite possibly the most uncomfortable theatre seats I’ve ever sat in and that is said with a vast experience over the years of attending lots of concerts around London and Kent / East Sussex .

        • I think the transaction was described at tht time as a “transfer” which rather suggests they were gifted. But it would be nice to be wrong and find they were sold for market value.

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