THIS is the shape of things to come at Eastbourne’s Devonshire Park.
The blueprint includes essential repairs to and a complete refurbishment of the Congress Theatre, Winter Garden, a new conference centre between them and an extensive facelift of the tennis centre. Tourism bosses have released images of the re-development which is expected to be given the green light by councillors next week.
Work could begin on the first phase of the project as early as next autumn and is expected to cost between £30-35 million.
Tourism chief Tracey McNulty said, “The new masterplan is ambitious yet offers a more efficient way of providing the necessary facilities through the effective use of existing space.
“This is done through investing in, re-purposing and upgrading the historic facilities to allow spaces to become modern, multi-purpose and attractive to our audiences and target business markets.
“It is all about re-purposing the existing buildings giving them a new focus and a new lease of life. Linking it up with the Wish Tower we want to make it a seafront building rather than being tucked away behind it.
“It will become a central destination with a range of leisure, recreational and entertainment opportunities.
“It is very exciting. It is sustaining the area’s heritage and building a future vision.”
The masterplan marks the end of months of negotiations with architects balanced with the need to repair the deteriorating Congress Theatre, calls for new and improved conference facilities in the town and upgrading the tennis courts in Devonshire Park.
The first phase will see an intensive refurbishment of the ageing Congress and the Winter Garden as a potential venue for live music.
Next will be a new multi-functional building for conferences and high quality exhibition and events built between the two with a cafe, bar, box office and a shop.
There will also be a new public realm at the front of the Congress and Winter Garden with accessibility from the Wish Tower site and include family friendly play areas and outdoor seating areas with new entrances to the park and re-landscaping of Devonshire Park.
Within the park itself, tennis courts will be moved to meet new requirements of the international tournament guidelines.
·The masterplan has already been welcomed by councillors at Eastbourne Borough Council and received cross party support.,
Liberal Democrat council leader David Tutt said, “The council is determined to ensure the long term future of the Devonshire Park complex for enjoyment by both the current and future generations.
“To do this we have been working with a highly regarded firm of architects to restore the key buildings of the Congress Theatre, the Winter Garden and Devonshire Park Theatre to their former glory, whilst also providing new exhibition space on the site of the Congress Restaurant.
“The council’s cabinet committee is now looking to go out to tender for these works and trust that the cost will fit within the business plan which calculates substantial new income from these facilities.”
And Conservative Party leader on the council David Elkin said, “After many months of planning we now have proposals that have the potential to deliver once-in-a-lifetime improvements to Devonshire Park and the strengthening of Eastbourne’s reputation as a leading conferencing and tourism destination.
“However, while we are wholly supportive of the vision, our full support is predicated on sight of the final designs and their suitability for the cultural heart of our town.”