Scarborough councillors have been urged to grasp a “once in a lifetime opportunity” to preserve the town’s historic South Cliff Gardens for generations to come.
The plea came as the authority’s cabinet recommended contributing approximately £1.5m to a £7million project to transform the area into a community asset.
Last month, the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and the Big Lottery Fund awarded a £4,665,700 grant for the project which will benefit current and future generations.
The National Lottery money will be added to funds already raised by the local South Cliff community for the Saving South Cliff Gardens project.
It aims to preserve the gardens’ unique heritage and improve them in a way that will reconnect them with today’s residents and visitors, in the same way that the original gardens did more than 100 years ago.
The South Cliff Community Group community had worked tirelessly with the council’s consultants, Southern Green, and the council’s project officer to get the project plans and funding to an advanced stage, including raising more than £100,000 from local pledges in just six weeks.
At today’s cabinet meeting, David Auton, chairman of South Cliff Community Group, told councillors not to pass up the opportunity.
He said: “We have been inundated from people from America, Europe and South America who have fond memories of Scarborough and the gardens.
“We’ve heard tales of people who have proposed, particularly in the Italian gardens. In later life, we’ve heard from people who’ve retired to Scarborough and enjoy the peace and quiet of the gardens and they take their children and grandchildren there.
“This is a once in a lifetime project, don’t waste the opportunity.”
Council leader Cllr Derek Bastiman (Con) paid tribute to the hard work of Mr Auton and his group, around 30 of whom were in the council chamber to hear today’s debate.
Cllr Bastiman said: “It is the people of tomorrow that will enjoy this garden and will take ownership of it.”
The cabinet recommended that the authority approve that £1.576m of borough council resources set aside to progress the scheme and that Southern Green be tasked with delivering the masterplan.
The final decision will be taken by the authority’s Full Council.
The project will restore the historic infrastructure of the gardens, improve habitat management and provide new facilities that will complement the gardens’ historic setting and encourage greater community use.
The gardens will be made more accessible, dementia friendly and inclusive, heritage features will be restored, a new and innovative play area will be built and original heritage horticultural displays installed.
A successional tree planting programme will be adopted and a new Operational Centre building will be constructed for shared use by council staff and the community.
There will also be an annual programme of events put on for the local community and Scarborough’s visitors to enjoy.