The next phase of a multi million scheme to revitalise the Congress Theatre, Winter Garden and Devonshire Park and create a top cultural destination was given the green light this week.
The £40 million scheme will see a new welcome centre built between the Congress and Winter Garden, two new conference halls, better facilities for tennis players and repairs to the Devonshire Park Theatre along with a new foyer.
“I believe this is a game changer for Eastbourne,” said the borough council leader David Tutt, at Wednesday’s cabinet meeting.
The scheme to transform Devonshire Park will be ‘truly spectacular’, he said, and if all goes to plan, the project should be complete by 2019.
“This is an exciting time to be part of Eastbourne Borough Council, and to be part of Eastbourne,” said Cllr Tutt.
Council chiefs say the scheme will move the town into the premier league of UK conference venues, transform the audience experience for theatregoers, greatly enhance the international tennis facilities and establish a cultural destination that will be enjoyed by residents and visitors alike.
The latest announcement follows news that the project to restore the Congress façade is almost done with scaffolding due to be taken down soon.
The landmark regeneration project will develop in tandem with the £90million redevelopment of the Arndale Shopping Centre.
Steve Wallis, who also sits on the cabinet said the scheme, alongside the town centre regeneration and work at Sovereign Harbour, showed ‘there is a lot of investment in Eastbourne PLC’.
Central to the redevelopment of Devonshire Park is a new Welcome Building (pictured alongside the Congress Theatre) that will provide a fully accessible entrance to the theatre, including lifts to every floor, two new large conference spaces, a central box office, breakout and hospitality areas and a coffee and wine bar that will enjoy views across the tennis lawns to the International Tennis Centre.
This scheme represents a game changer for Eastbourne and herald new era for area of the townDavid Tutt, Eastbourne council leader
Cllr Tutt, said, “This scheme represents a game changer for Eastbourne. It will herald a new era for an area of the town that is fundamental to our long term prosperity and cultural well-being.
“We now have a business case in place that shows that by transforming Devonshire Park we can access new markets that were previously out of reach and achieve over a £1million in savings through increased revenue streams and lower running costs.”
Mindful of the many activities and events that must be maintained throughout the lifecycle of the scheme, most notably the International Tennis Tournament, the planned work will be phased to ensure it remains business as usual across Devonshire Park as far as possible.
Leader of the Opposition, David Elkin, said, “Such important developments within Eastbourne require cross-party support and to that end I have worked closely with Cllr Tutt and senior council officers to get us to this key stage.
“We must now continue our close working with partners at the Heritage Lottery Fund, Arts Council England, Local Economic Partnership and, of course, the Lawn Tennis Association, to secure the funding and commitment needed that will allow us to realise the full potential of this exciting scheme.”
The key elements of the proposals for Devonshire Park include new world class conferencing and catering facilities, a new plaza providing a high quality public realm that acts as a ‘honeypot’ for visitors and a strategic link between the seafront and the heart of the planned retail and leisure centre, an extensive restoration of the interior of the Congress Theatre including new bars and a café, the reinstatement of original features and architecture that will return the Winter Garden to its former glory, essential repairs and access improvements within Devonshire Park Theatre, a new show court for the international tennis event and enhanced facilities for players.
Chief Executive of Eastbourne Chamber of Commerce, Christina Ewbank, said, “The scope of the redevelopment plans will certainly excite local businesses. Tourism is the bedrock of our town and these proposals will ensure we are able to compete against other leading resorts for big conferences and much, much more.
“It’s no exaggeration to say the scheme is a landmark moment in the history of Eastbourne.”
The decision by Cabinet Councillors means that the project board will now seek planning permission for the scheme and make submissions to funding bodies to attract financial support for the scheme.
Councillor Tutt said, “In context with the regeneration of the town centre and wider economic development of Eastbourne, we are living in an era that will define the future of our wonderful town.”
As part of the works, the Winter Gardens and the Congress will close for six months, but the Devonshire Park Theatre will remain open.