Grimsby's Floral Hall and café to reopen
GRIMSBY'S Floral Hall and café will flourish once again – and give more than 50 people jobs.
Tukes, the award-winning mental health service, today has the keys of the iconic building in People's Park, after a two-year long negotiation with North East Lincolnshire Council.
The future of the Victorian attraction has been uncertain after the Grimsby Institute handed back its lease to NELC in 2011, but now Tukes plan to bring it back to its former glory.
Bosses also plan to have the cafe in the park open by Easter, and the project overall will provide employment for about 50 people who use Tukes services.
General manager John Ogden said: "It will only take a couple of weeks to spruce up the café and it will be open as soon as possible for the Easter trade.
"However, the Floral Hall will take longer to renovate because it is in a poorer state.
"We are still discussing it, but we hope to make it a family-friendly attraction with small animals, plants and a garden centre.
"We are tremendously excited and this is the biggest challenge Tukes has ever faced."
Tukes is a training initiative for people who have become socially excluded due to mental health problems.
It began in 2003 with a café at the Diana, Princess Of Wales Hospital and it relocated in 2011 to a bigger premises in Brighowgate, Grimsby.
That year, it became part of NAViGO, which provides local mental health services, and won awards including Overall Public Service Of The Year from the Guardian newspaper.
Mr Ogden continued: "People's Park is one of the nicest parts of Grimsby, which is why we choose to have a service in this area and there will be a lot of passing trade from the public.
"More than 50 people from Tukes will get the chance to learn new skills and participate in vital work experience, such as cooking and cleaning.
"This has been a long process, and we have been waiting for two years for the keys."
The Grimsby Institute took over the responsibility of the glass and cast iron Floral Hall as part of its £1 million expansion programme 12 years ago.
In 2004, the hall was restored using a £2-million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
It employed 11 people and, following a strategic review of the college's operations, it handed the lease back to the council. It has been empty ever since.
Ann Turner, who lives in Park Drive and is the former chairman of Friends Of People's Park, said: "I am 100 per cent pleased that Tukes have finally got the keys to the venue.
"People will be so happy that they can enjoy the venue once again.
"This is all very positive for the area and I hope they open the cafe for longer."
Park Ward resident Ernie Brown added: "People's Park will come alive again and it's great news for the area.
"It will keep people busy in the area for longer and will hopefully become an attraction once again."
Councillor Chris Shaw, the leader of NELC, said: "The park has been given a new lease of life and I look forward to seeing visitors enjoy what NAViGO will bring to the area over the spring and summer."
IT HAS often been described as the jewel in the borough’s park attractions.
No one can deny that the millions of pounds in Heritage Lottery funding turned the once-bedraggled park into a gleaming attraction five years ago.
The Floral Hall has, however, had a chequered past.
A popular attraction for a long time, it became tired and unloved before being restored once more by the Grimsby Institute.
Then, after they handed back the keys in 2011, that section of the park has become an overgrown area blocked off from public access.
It was hoped at the time that Tukes would take it – and the cafe – over.
It is unfortunate that it has taken so long for the details to be ironed out, but Tukes is the perfect social enterprise to put them back into use.
Tukes is a success story of which Grimsby can be very proud. Starting out by running the cafe at Grimsby’s hospital, it now has large premises on Brighowgate, plus a shop, and this venture alone will provide work for up to 50 people with mental health problems.
Just as the Rock Foundation provides employment and training for young people with mental and physical disabilities, Tukes also provides a vital service.
It’s one we should be proud to support by visiting the park – and enjoying a cuppa, too!