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New Year sees start of exciting new era at Pavilion Gardens

Council chiefs have heralded an exciting new era for Buxton's Pavilion Gardens after formally announcing that Parkwood Leisure Ltd has been awarded the contract to operate events and services at the historic venue.

Earlier this year High Peak Borough Council announced that it was seeking an experienced operator to provide services from 1 January 2019. Following an an extensive tendering process over the summer Parkwood has been awarded the contract for ten years.

Councillor Tony Kemp, Executive Councillor for Regeneration and Tourism, said: "We are delighted to be working in partnership with Parkwood Leisure Ltd as together we embark on a new era of opportunity for this much loved venue and visitor attraction.

"Parkwood's vision is exciting and innovative and their plans reflect their aim of delivering modern, high quality visitor experiences for everyone which place the local community and businesses at their heart. The company has a strong track record in the leisure industry so I think we can say with confidence that the future is looking bright for the Gardens."

Parkwood's plans for the Gardens include:

·         The Pavilion Market - a reinterpretation of the traditional market hall with a mix of retail, fresh produce promoting the 'Best of Buxton', and culinary treats on offer

·         An ice cream parlour - in the space currently occupied by the coffee bar offering real dairy ice cream and the fun factory experience

·         Refurbishment of the Pavilion Cafe - where customers can experience a traditional café environment with a touch of vintage glamour

·         The development of Conservatory theatre bars - and space in the Conservatory for drinks receptions before and after events

·         Increasing the opening hours at the lakeside kiosk - and adding additional outlets for outside refreshments, open all year round, on the Promenade

Peter Fitzboydon, Managing Director of Parkwood Leisure Ltd, said: "We are thrilled that we have been given this opportunity and we are very much looking forward to getting started. We appreciate the vital role that the Pavilion Gardens play for local people and the wider community in the region. Our plans are very much focused on building on that legacy and investing to make them even better and help more people enjoy the Pavilion Gardens for years to come.

"We want our role to provide a boost for the local economy and will be investing in the area by focusing on using local suppliers and partners and providing additional employment and professional development opportunities. This is something that Parkwood Leisure prides itself in delivering and we are excited to get started.

"Our other key priority is, of course, delivering high quality experiences to visitors old and new and we can't wait to welcome everybody in the New Year."

The opportunity follows another successful period for tourism in the High Peak - the latest figures reveal that visitor numbers are up by almost 5% to 4.696 million and visitor days rose by 4.8% to 5.7 million since 2016.

The data also shows a rise in the number of people coming to the area 'off-season' - visitor numbers for February were up 66% with November showing an increase of 52% between 2009 and 2017.

Councillor Kemp added: "The appointment of a private operator does not in any way diminish the Council's commitment to the Pavilion Gardens - rather the opposite in fact. We've demonstrated that with the investment of over £3 million to repair and restore the Octagon Hall and, indeed, further significant work is planned. We've been clear all along that we could not continue to afford to subsidise operations at the venue indefinitely.

"This solution fulfils our aspiration to provide the highest quality facilities in a way that doesn't continue to cost residents and taxpayers across the High Peak significant amounts of money but, as the same time, safeguards this historic venue which has been prominent feature of the Buxton since the Victorian era.

"I would stress that TUPE arrangements will provide protection and transfer across for appropriate Council staff, and also that these plans have been fully scrutinised by elected members of all political parties who were supportive of the proposal.

"It's particularly encouraging that the tourism figures continue to show an increase in the number of people visiting out of season. This supports the case for keeping the Gardens open during the winter months and even possibly extending the opening hours which is something the Council simply could not afford.