Winter Gardens

Read about the future of the Winter gardens


The Margate Town Deal Board asked central Government for revenue funding to support the development of a long-term plan for the Margate Winter Gardens. As a result there was £300,000 of revenue funding allocated for the Winter Gardens project. This funding was received by Thanet District Council as the Accountable Body, in September 2022. It  follows the approval of the Business Case summary document submitted to the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities in the spring.

The Town Deal funding has enabled the development of a vision for the Winter Garden’s future, as part of the evening and night time economy. This included looking at how it can operate in tandem with the other leisure venues and key heritage assets in Margate and across Thanet.

A raft of surveys and reports have been completed to help inform an open market search for a commercial partner /operator for the Winter Gardens. 

In November 2023, we launched the first phase of the search for a new operator for the Winter Gardens, in partnership with commercial real estate firm Colliers. The much-loved venue was marketed to potential new operators and investors, who were invited to visit the site, see it at first hand and submit their initial Expressions of Interest (EoI). 

Potential partners were asked to show their commitment to restoring the Winter Gardens as a venue for the whole of Thanet. The council has specified that whilst open to the venue being used for a range of leisure ideas, residential use is not an option.

A number of interested parties have engaged with Colliers during the marketing process with the financial challenges in building business cases was being a recurring theme within the feedback about the Winter Gardens. It reflects the level of refurbishment needed and the Winter Gardens’ status as Grade II Listed building.

Following the announcement from Dreamland that it wouldn’t be accepting the £4million of Margate Town Deal funding, it was proposed that this funding be reallocated to the Winter Gardens. This is to support the identification of an operator and help unlock further private sector investment. This approval was gained by Cabinet on 14 March 2024.

Project Outcomes

Commission of specialist services including, but not limited to:

  • Building condition and site surveys
  • Cost plans
  • Planning and listed building advice
  • Legal advice
  • Evening and night time economy review
  • Engagement with the market
  • Review of leasing arrangements
  • Audience profiling


Next Steps

The proposed next step is to re-run the marketing campaign. The aim is that the campaign will run for 3-4 weeks and will remain a two-stage process, the second part of which involves developing more detailed business plans. Following the completion of the marketing and evaluation exercise, a further report setting out detailed proposals will be considered by Cabinet. The council are working with Colliers to ensure that a broad range of organisations are engaged through the marketing process.

The hope is that with the possibility of £4million available in funding to support the refurbishment of the building to help unlock the heritage deficit in the building, more potential investors will come forward.

The timescales for the reopening of the Winter Gardens remain dependent on the identification of a suitable operating partner and the scope of their plans.

We commissioned Caroe Architects Ltd to produce a Heritage Significance Statement for the Winter Gardens.

The purpose of the statement is to provide an up-to-date understanding of the heritage significance of the Winter Gardens and its capacity for change (issues, weaknesses/vulnerabilities, opportunities and constraints).

The recommendations included in the statement will inform future decisions on the conservation, preservation and re-purposing of the building and will provide the basis for a full Conservation Management Plan when required to support future bids for National Lottery, and other funding, in the future.

This document has been produced externally and may not be accessible. To request the document in an accessible format please contact Andreea.plant@thanet.gov.uk.


Project Timeline

December 2022

  • Engage a multidisciplinary team to deliver a review and strategy of the evening and night time economy across Thanet, and the role of the Margate Winter Gardens
  • Launch online community engagement – to support creation of new FAQ –  through Your Voice Thanet – this will be open for four weeks
  • Commission up to date site plans and drawings for the Winter Gardens
  • Draft brief for a legal review and report on the title for the Winter Gardens with relevant legal advice, searches and surveys
  • Commission costed surveys with visits

January 2023

  • Online community engagement closes – officers to review the questions submitted 
  • Sign off site plans and drawings 
  • Complete costed surveys for the marketing pack
  • Draft report from the evening and night time review to include a proposed vision and recommendations for the Winter Gardens, with information to support the engagement of a marketing agent with relevant experience.
  • Further visits to inform costed surveys 
  • Commission Historic Buildings Report

February 2023

  • Finalise legal review and surveys
  • Carry out stakeholder and community engagement on the demand and vision for the Winter Gardens
  • Propose recommendations for the public and private sectors about their roles in developing a sustainable, accessible and inclusive evening and night time economy across Thanet.
  • Commission an Evening and Night Time Economy review for Thanet in order to support significant assets, including the Winter Gardens
  • Commence the procurement of a suitably qualified and experienced marketing agency through an open process
  • Costed surveys finalised

March 2023

  • Update Cabinet on the Evening and Night Time Economy and Strategy
  • Develop marketing activity to identify a commercial partner/operator

April 2023

  • Commission heritage / historic buildings reports
  • Commission further buildings surveys / reports

May 2023

  • Commission further surveys / reports

June/July 2023

  • Finalise the Evening and Night Time Economy Strategy
  • Publish the FAQ on the Margate Town Deal webpages following the initial stakeholder engagement

August/September 2023

  • Finalise heritage / historic buildings reports
  • Engage the marketing agency

October/November 2023

  •  – Draft and approve marketing materials
  • Go out to the market to promote the opportunity at the Winter Gardens
  • Host open days in the Winter Gardens for prospective commercial partners and/or operators
  • Invite Expressions of Interest for the Winter Gardens

December/January 2023/2024

  • Review expressions of interest and invite potential partners/operators to submit full Business Plans and proposals.

February/March 2024

  • Evaluate submitted Business Plans and Proposals
  • Provide recommendations to Cabinet

Whilst the Project Team are working towards the timeline above, the programme of activity may be subject to change.  The timeline information will be updated. 


Your Questions Answered

We know that the Winter Gardens is close to the hearts of many people in the local community. And, that people want to ask questions about what the future might look like for the venue.

To kickstart public engagement we encouraged the public to participate via our online platform; Your Voice Thanet 

Between Friday 9 December 2022 and Sunday 8 January 2023 people could submit questions which will help us to get a better picture of the hot topics.

We then used the most asked questions to guide what we include in the updated FAQ section below – updating it with the things our community most wants to know.

Details of a public meeting regarding the future of the Winter Gardens will be published in due course and project updates will continue to be published on these web pages.

You can also email the Project Team and request to join the Margate Town Deal mailing list to be among those first to hear about latest developments with the Margate Town Deal projects including the Winter Gardens straight to your inbox: margate-town-deal@thanet.gov.uk

The Margate Winter Gardens is over 110 years old, having been built in 1911. It was last fully refurbished in 1978 – almost 50 years ago. For a time, Your Leisure, a not-for-profit society, with charitable status, managed the Winter Gardens. Your Leisure had responsibility for the maintenance and upkeep of the building. While break-even was achieved, major structural work was needed. The venue wasn’t generating the level of funding required to do this work. Neither did the council have the funds. The long term reduction in funding from central government has affected councils across the country. It has had a significant impact on finances. The council has allocated funds based on what it has available. The focus is on delivering statutory services and corporate priorities.


Margate had the opportunity to bid for investment from the government’s £3.6 billion Towns Fund in 2019. Since then, there has been ongoing public communication. This includes updates published on the council’s website. We have highlighted opportunities for input and engagement. We’ve also announced when Councillors have taken a decision. Council meetings are broadcast via YouTube and added to the library to be watched later. Information is also issued to the local media who have then written stories about it. Regular stories feature in The Wave, the council’s monthly e-newsletter for residents. There are also frequent posts on social media (Facebook and Instagram). Recently we shared a video ‘Inside the Winter Gardens’ on YouTube. Emails go to everyone who has signed up to the Margate Town Deal mailing list. There have also been community drop in events and online questionnaires.

We will continue to use all these channels to try and reach as many people as possible. We want to make sure that everyone knows what is happening and when.

If you’d like to sign up for our newsletter please do so here: thanet.gov.uk/newsletter


The council provides regular updates through its website, The Wave, and social media. The timeline on the council’s website gives an overview of the Margate Town Deal Winter Gardens project.

In March 2023, Cabinet agreed to appoint a specialist marketing agency to help promote the Winter Gardens. There is a lot of information included in reports, surveys and the evening and night time economy review. There is also information on the significance of the building’s history and heritage. These will be available for anyone interested in the building, when the marketing campaign starts.

Cabinet also made a commitment at a March meeting, to consider a further report. This report will be written when the marketing and evaluation exercise is complete. It will set out detailed proposals and next steps. This will be later in the year.


In 2020 we made an ambitious request for £29m investment for Margate. We did this by submitting a Town Investment Plan to central government. As part of this submission we applied for £4m, for the Winter Gardens. The funding offer we got back from central government was less than we had asked for. It was an offer of £22.2m, in part due to their removal of the Winter Gardens project. They wanted more evidence that we had a strong case for capital investment in the Winter Gardens.

To make the £22.2m offer work, the Margate Town Deal Board had to go through a process to prioritise the projects. This meant adjusting the plans to reflect the offer received. The board agreed on an updated list of projects. It included asking for revenue funding to develop a long-term plan for the Margate Winter Gardens.

We showed that doing a feasibility study on the Winter Gardens would put us in a much stronger position to attract future investment. It would mean that any partners would avoid the costly investigative process.

The government agreed and as a result, £300,000 of revenue funding was allocated for the Winter Gardens project.

With this funding we are developing a vision for the Winter Gardens. It’s an important part of the evening and night time economy. Other leisure venues and key heritage buildings in Margate; Dreamland and the Theatre Royal, have capital investment through the Margate Town Deal. The vision will include looking at how the Winter Gardens can operate in tandem with them.

There has been engagement with public and private sector stakeholders. We have also worked with specialists to help test the market and identify future opportunities. A raft of surveys and reports have been commissioned. These will allow us to promote the Winter Gardens as an attractive investment opportunity. Specialist marketing agents are expected to come on board in early summer 2023.


The goal is to make the venue a successful leisure proposition for Thanet. We want to attract investment proposals from organisations with the necessary experience and expertise.

In March 2023, Cabinet agreed to appoint a specialist marketing agency to help promote the Winter Gardens. The agency’s role will be to take the Winter Gardens to the open market on behalf of the council.

In June 2023, a competitive procurement process took place.

The intention is to go out to the market in late July 2023. Marketing materials will need to be prepared. This includes pulling together all the information and evidence the council has.

You can find the timeline, including key milestones around marketing, on the project pages. These milestones will be updated as the project progresses.


The Winter Gardens is a significant asset for Margate and the wider Thanet area. It is also a Grade II Listed building. This makes the process of deciding how it’s used in the future more complex.

It is currently estimated that £2.5m is needed now for structural, building and mechanical and electrical works. A further £3.5m is estimated over the next 10 years.

Finding a partner to work with has the potential to be challenging. Cabinet agreed, in March, that a specialist marketing agency should be appointed. The agency’s role is to attract investment proposals.

The agency will create a detailed information pack and launch a campaign to secure interest and proposals from serious investors.

The cost of work needed will be a consideration for anyone thinking of investing.


Under the Margate Town Deal project, the council commissioned a review of Thanet’s evening and night time economy. One goal was to understand the role that the Winter Gardens play in that.

The team engaged with local businesses and other stakeholders. They were able to learn about what people would like to see at the Winter Gardens. The outcome of the review will be published online.

The review will also be shared with organisations who might want to take on the Winter Gardens. It will give them access to more information about the potential uses for the space.

The appointed specialist marketing agency will create a detailed information pack. They will also launch a campaign to attract serious investors for the Winter Gardens. The investors will need to put forward their proposals for its future use.

Anyone interested in the Winter Gardens must have the skills, experience and funding needed to make their proposal a reality. The marketing agency will support the council to ensure that this is the case.

There is a raft of information being gathered, through surveys and reports. This will help organisations to understand whether their ideas and proposals are workable. It will help to discount organisations without the capacity to deliver their proposals.


The Winter Gardens is a significant asset for Margate and the wider Thanet area. The goal is to make the venue a successful leisure proposition for Thanet. We’re going out to market to identify potential leisure uses for the Winter Gardens.

We want to attract proposals from investors with the experience and expertise needed to do this. We’re working with a specialist agency to help us find a third party organisation ready to invest in the Winter Gardens.

There is an information pack which contains detailed reports. The reports provide information on the building’s likely refurbishment works and costs. It needs around £2.5m now for structural, building and mechanical and electrical works. A further £3.5m is estimated to be needed over the next 10 years.


The Winter Gardens is Grade II listed and an important heritage asset. While bookings at the venue are paused we have installed temporary security screening. This is to prevent unauthorised access or vandalism. It’s one of a range of security measures in place to help protect and preserve the Winter Gardens. There are also daily patrols, regular internal inspections and extra CCTV.


The Winter Gardens is Grade II Listed. This is defined as a UK building or structure ‘of special interest, warranting every effort to preserve it’. The building has been listed since 2008. The full details of the listing are on the Historic England website. Listings highlight what is significant about a building or site. They also help to make sure that any future changes to it do not result in the loss of its significance.

We have commissioned a Heritage Significance Statement for the Winter Gardens. It will be prepared by heritage specialists and conservation architects.

The statement will form part of the pack used to take the Winter Gardens out to the open market. It will outline the opportunities and specify any constraints related to the building. This will be useful for potential buyers or commercial partners who might consider making changes.


As part of the Town Deal project we undertook a legal review. The findings confirm that there is a restrictive covenant to protect the green spaces either side of the Winter Gardens. We understand that this is for the benefit of houses situated around the site.


We want to see a successful leisure proposition at the Winter Gardens, and are looking for investment proposals from organisations with the experience and expertise needed to achieve this.

The Winter Gardens is a significant asset for Margate and the wider Thanet area. It is also a Grade II Listed building. This makes the process of deciding how it’s used in the future more complex and finding a partner to work with has the potential to be challenging.

The community were given opportunities to get involved in the evening and night time economy review, which looked at the role of the Winter Gardens, and those views have been taken into consideration.

The final level of community input will be something we discuss with the partner we end up working with and will depend on how the building is used in the future.


The Winter Gardens is located in a harsh coastal environment and it is listed. This means it needs to make money to be sustainable, including covering the costs for upkeep and maintenance. The opportunity at the Winter Gardens is being marketed by a special marketing agency. The aim is to identify a knowledgeable and experienced third party to achieve its sustainability.


The council will ask that any interested third parties make the Winter Gardens as accessible as possible. How this will work will depend on the final future use of the buildings.


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