Exciting plans announced for Winchester Discovery Centre creating major new cultural hub

A major new cultural hub in Winchester has been given the go ahead through the creation of a partnership between Hampshire County Council and Hampshire Cultural Trust. As part of the plans, the County Council has agreed an investment of £515,000 to support a refurbishment of the Grade II listed Winchester Discovery Centre building to provide upgraded library facilities and improved gallery spaces, alongside enhancements to the café, toilets and lift

Jul 23 2021

Councillor Edward Heron, Hampshire County Council’s Executive Member for Recreation, Heritage and Rural Affairs, said: “I’m thrilled to announce the go ahead for this exciting new chapter for the city’s Discovery Centre. We already work closely with Hampshire Cultural Trust, and I am confident this partnership will benefit the long-term future of this much-loved public building. Our aim is to create a vibrant cultural hub for the city and region, supporting this important economic sector. The library will remain an integral part of the site, free to access, with the benefit of increased creative opportunities.”

Hampshire Cultural Trust Chief Executive, Paul Sapwell, commented: “The formal creation of this partnership is an incredibly exciting moment, one which allows Hampshire Cultural Trust and Hampshire County Council to move forward together to realise our joint ambition and vision for the future of Winchester Discovery Centre: to develop it as a unique cultural destination both for the city and the wider county. It will be a place where people can come together to experience library and community services alongside live performance, art, classes and talks, all together, under one roof, in the heart of Winchester.”

Winchester Discovery Centre houses Hampshire’s busiest library, a café and performance spaces, as well as two art galleries operated by Hampshire Cultural Trust. The partnership with Hampshire Cultural Trust will deliver the following benefits:

- Hampshire Cultural Trust will take on responsibility for all cultural programming to develop Winchester Discovery Centre’s potential as an important cultural venue. The opportunity to develop joint funding applications will help to secure the long-term financial viability of the building;
- The status of Winchester Discovery Centre as a flagship library will be maintained and enhanced through this project;
- The transfer of the day-to-day operational responsibility for the Winchester Discovery Centre building and the running of the café from the County Council to Hampshire Cultural Trust in Spring 2022. The freehold will remain with the County Council;
- An initial £515,000 investment by Hampshire County Council to support a major refurbishment of the building ahead of the transfer to Hampshire Cultural Trust – these works are due to start later this year, and will improve key spaces;

The partnership would aim to generate efficiencies for the County Council whilst maximising income generation and fundraising opportunities against a backdrop of major financial challenges, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In March 2021, Councillor Heron gave outline approval for a partnership between the County Council and Hampshire Cultural Trust, subject to an assessment of the commercial principles for the partnership. This assessment has been completed and agreement given to progress the plans.

The approval of the operational transfer of the building and £515,000 capital towards the refurbishment works was agreed by Councillor Steve Forster, Executive Member for Commercial Strategy, Estates and Property at his Decision Day on Tuesday 20 July.

Councillor Forster, said: “I’m really pleased to agree to this capital investment which will enable a major refurbishment of the Winchester Discovery Centre building and its facilities to take place later this year. This will provide a fantastic upgrade for the children’s library alongside a refresh of the gallery spaces and café. Visitor facilities will also be improved to make this historic building more user-friendly.”

Hampshire Cultural Trust operates City Space, one of two galleries at the Winchester Discovery Centre, on behalf of Winchester City Council.