Council launches trust to support Winter Gardens

Blackpool Council has launched a charity to further support and develop the Winter Gardens.

The council is looking at options for sustainable funding and wider external involvement in the long term, despite there currently being a series of established funding streams to support the Grade 2-listed complex.

However, some of the funding will come to an end in early 2012 following the closure of the North West Development Agency.

In March last year, the council purchased the Winter Gardens, along with Blackpool Tower, Louis Tussauds and the Golden Mile Centre from Leisure Parcs using European and Government funding, bringing it into public ownership for the first time.

The refurbishment of the Winter Gardens is being supported with investment from the European Regional Development Fund, contributing £14m, North West Development Agency, £7.9m, and the Homes & Communities Agency, £7m.

The not-for-profit company is aimed at providing independent support by increasing funding for special projects and cultural activity within the Victorian complex.

The council said the trust will provide a sound external body to work alongside other initiatives and provide a funding resource for those projects which are harder to source money for.

The council added that whilst formation of the charity is an initiative led by the local authority, it will operate independently of the council itself. The council said the charitable organisation will be led by a board consisting of a panel of experts and professional advisors, including council representation.

External members will be recruited through an interview process to ensure that the charity has the right professional skills available to maximise fundraising and operational opportunities.

Cllr Graham Cain, cabinet member for tourism and culture, said: "Not only will the new charity help us to raise much needed funds for the Winter Gardens, it will also provide local people with a way of getting involved. So many local residents have expressed a desire to help make the Winter Gardens the very special place that they remember. This will give people a chance to get involved, whether through fundraising, or by taking part in some of the wonderful cultural events and activities which the charity will help to support – from tours of the building, to new exhibitions, to creative activities for local schoolchildren."

Michael Williams, from the Winter Gardens, added: "The Charitable company will allow us to further improve and enhance the facilities at the Winter Gardens. The works that have already been completed on Floral Hal and the introduction of the new coffee shop and Empress Grill Room have received many favourable comments from clients and visitors and we have already seen an increase in the number of visitors to the venue."

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