Morecambe Winter Gardens to get £103k loan from Lancaster City Council

A £103,000 loan to help out Morecambe’s Winter Gardens has been approved by city councillors as part of a funding package to support cultural development in the district.

Monday, 2nd March 2020, 10:44 am
Updated Monday, 2nd March 2020, 10:44 am

The Winter Gardens Preservation Trust had asked Lancaster City Council for a community loan to help pay off mortgage costs on the building.

And following cabinet approval for the provision of the loan, that decision has now been ratified in the budget for 2020/21 and also the council's medium term financial strategy.

The loan will be paid back at £13,000 a year.

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Morecambe Winter Gardens. Photo: Historic England Archive

The Winter Gardens Preservation Trust submitted its request for the community interest business loan following a six month review of the theatre’s finances and commitments.

The trust currently owes £73,000 on the mortgage and has requested an additional £30,000 towards a contribution for the £150,000 grant received from Historic England for the additional 20 per cent matching contribution required. The loan request is based on current commercial interest rates of three per cent which is 2.5 per cent above base but substantially lower than the current rate of 9.5 per cent that the trust has been historically paying since 2009 to the Charities Bank.

In total this amounts to £103,000 payable via a commercial business rate back to Lancaster City Council over a minimum of 10 years.

Trust chair Prof Vanessa Toulmin said: “The trust believe that securing this loan will be a huge step towards financial stability for the Winter Gardens and enable additional income to support the full restoration of the building over the next five years.

“It enables us to plan our future vision in the knowledge that we are not dealing with historical decisions that were made that are not economically viable.”

The loan request formed part of an overall proposal to invest in a range of ambitious cultural and heritage related developments, building on the district’s strengths, assets and opportunities.

These are designed to improve quality of life and health and well-being for residents, increase economic prosperity and skills, generate additional income that will contribute to the cost effectiveness of services, and lead to increased business rates and council tax income for the council.

As well as supporting the Winter Gardens, proposals include areas such as City of Culture status, developing existing event and exhibition spaces to national standards, developing an arts and museums exhibitions and events programme of regional, national and international standing, and hosting major festivals.