Future of Grimsby's Floral Hall in doubt
UNCERTAINTY surrounds the future of one of Grimsby's most popular attractions.
Talks between North East Lincolnshire Council and the Grimsby Institute bosses are being held to discuss the possibility of handing back the lease of Floral Hall at People's Park.
The facility, which houses exotic plants and animals, is owned by the council and leased out to the college, which uses it for horticultural studies.
The college took over the responsibility of the Floral Hall as part of its £1-million expansion programme in 2001 after NELC budget cuts threatened to close it.
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Since then, it has remained the park's most popular attraction, boosted by the £2-million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund to restore the park it to its original Victorian splendour in 2004.
But following a strategic review of Grimsby Institute's operations last year, the educational establishment is now discussing whether to hand back the lease to NELC.
It is unclear what this will mean for the 11 staff who work at the hall, but the Grimsby Telegraph understands staff have been told of redundancies.
An Institute spokesperson said: "The Grimsby Institute undertook a strategic review of its operations during late 2010, this was in response to the weaker economic climate and the Government's Comprehensive Spending Review."
It is understood that the animals at the attraction will be homed in Scarborough and the college courses will be based at other campuses in the area, including Louth.
The discussions come as the closure of People's Park Café – which is also run by the Grimsby Institute – is announced, scheduled for July 31.
Between the hall and the cafe, there are 11 members of staff and although there has been no official confirmation, the Grimsby Telegraph understands some are facing redundancy.
A group on social networking site Facebook has been set up in a bid to save the cafe and has already attracted more than 300 members.
Meanwhile, news has filtered through to regular visitors to the Floral Hall, who hope that if the college does pull out, another business or organisation will step in and take on the lease.
Identical twins Maureen and Eileen Wood, 67, visit weekly and are concerned about its future.
"We are really upset," said Maureen. "The main reason we go to People's Park is because of the Floral Hall. We are always seeing families in there taking photographs; it is lovely.
"We would be devastated if it closed down. It is a beautiful place – like a mini Eden project – and to close it down would be a great loss to Grimsby.
"We want to stop this from happening and we are just hoping that funds will be raised from elsewhere. Perhaps a businessman will come forward to help the project."
Their concerns were echoed by teacher and mum-of-two Julie Childs, 40, from Laceby, who said: "It has been a massive success and so many people love it.
"I have spoken to the staff and they are heartbroken.
"It is a jewel in the crown of Grimsby and makes no sense at all – it is a real focal point for tourism.
"It seems the potential closure has been kept under the radar – it doesn't seem very forward-thinking at all."
A spokesperson for the Institute said: "Grimsby Institute of Further and Higher Education and North East Lincolnshire Council are looking at the options for continued operations for the Floral Hall and will be discussing these options with elected members before any future decisions are taken."