Landmarks 'at risk' on Fylde coast: Winter Gardens making good progress

Renovation work at Blackpool's Winter Gardens is ongoing
Renovation work at Blackpool's Winter Gardens is ongoing

Blackpool’s famous Winter Gardens is a step closer to being removed a list of the most “at risk” landmarks in the country.

The historic venue still features on the latest edition of Heritage at Risk Register, published today by Heritage England, but has been singled out by conservation chiefs as making good progress.

More than £4m has been spent on repairs and restoration works to the Spanish Hall and Empress Ballroom in recent years.

That includes £500,000 provided by Heritage England towards renovations at the building, which was in serious need of repair when it was bought by Blackpool Council in 2010.

Announcing today’s edition of the register, which is the 20th since it was introduced to highlight listed buildings and places in most in need of help, Heritage England said work was “well underway on the repair of the roof of the Spanish Hall”.

Charles Smith, Heritage at Risk principal in the North West, said: “Over the past 20 years we have used the Heritage at Risk Register to highlight places in need of care and attention.

“We have dedicated time, expertise and money to bring cherished places back into use and we are proud to have played our part in saving them from neglect.”

While the Winter Gardens remains on the list, the announcement acknowledges the steps taken to secure its future.

Michael Williams, managing director of Blackpool Entertainment Company Limited, which operates the Winter Gardens on behalf of owners Blackpool Council, said: "Work is currently ongoing under the giant covering erected over the Spanish Hall during the Summer.

"At the moment, the re-roofing and repairs to the structure of the roof are on course to be finished by our target date in December this year despite a number of challenges and setbacks.

"As well as the replacement of the glazed roof we will use the scaffolding whilst it’s there to undertake repairs and refurbishment to the plasterwork."

Across Lancashire, three sites have been removed from the register, while another three have been added.

Those added include the Bleasdale Circle, a rare type of Bronze Age burial monument in Wyre.

The other two added are the Old Lower Hodder Bridge, in the Ribble Valley, and Ice house at Towneley Hall, in Burnley.

Three churches, in Preston, Croston and Brierfield, have all been removed from the latest edition of the list.

It comes as Heritage England had warned that nationally places of worship in particular were suffering.

Mr Smith said: “Despite the successes, other places continue to fall into disrepair – in particular, we’ve seen a rise in the number of places of worship at risk here in the North West.

“They have been added to this year’s register and we will focus our attention on them in the years ahead.”

Across the North West, there are 419 entries on the Heritage at Risk Register. They include 116 grade I and II*-listed buildings and structures and 139 places of worship.

There have been 19 entries in the region removed from the 2018 register, while 24 have been added.

What work has been done at the Winter Gardens?

According to the Heritage at Risk Register, the Winter Gardens buildings “were suffering from serious neglect when acquired by Blackpool Council in 2010”.

Previous versions of the publication had recognised the subsequent efforts to repair the grade II*-listed venue, with its priority downgraded last year.

A major survey was carried out in 2015 to determine the scale of the work needed to repair the building over the next ten years.

Michael Williams, managing director of Blackpool Entertainment Company Limited, which operates the Winter Gardens on behalf of owners Blackpool Council, has previously said “real progress” has been made.

Giving an update on the latest work to secure the venue's future, he said work in the Spanish Hall is ongoing. He added he was confident of completing work on the roof by December "despite a number of challenges".

Last year, work suffered a setback when a ceiling tile collapsed in the Empress Ballroom, requiring complex repair work.

When the venue was downgraded last year, he said: “We knew when the council bought it that we’d need to be in it for the long haul.”