MILLIONS more pounds of council money could be invested into the Winter Gardens development in Bournemouth town centre.

Plans to purchase one-third of the more than 350 flats proposed for the site, as well as the public car park, will be considered by BCP Council’s cabinet on Wednesday.

At the same time, councillors will be asked to give their backing to put up to an extra £7.6 million into funding the £150 million development.

Planning permission for the Winter Gardens scheme, put forward through Bournemouth Development Company – the council’s partnership with Morgan Sindall, was granted last year.

A series of amendments to the original proposal, increasing the residential elements at the expense of retail, leisure and office space is due to be considered today (Thursday).

As well as providing the land for the development, the council has already spent £3.4 million to purchase the adjoining land off Exeter Road.

But a report being considered by its cabinet on Wednesday (May 27) proposes further funding of “up to £7.6 million” be invested in the project “to realise its benefits”.

Councillors will also be asked to give their backing to the council purchasing 123 of the first flats due to be built on the site as well as the new public car park.

It is proposed that the flats would be privately rented through its company Seascape. It is forecast these would bring in more than £1.7 million a year.

Financial details of the purchases have not been made public.

The council’s investment manager, Sarah Longthorpe, said this had been investigated through its investment panel.

“The panel collectively determined that it is appropriate for the council to focus its interests on the elements of the scheme that are strategically fundamental to the delivery of the regeneration of the town centre and the provision of new homes, the residential and public car park elements, not the retail and leisure sector elements,” her report to the cabinet says.

But, speaking at Monday's scrutiny board meeting, councillor Stephen Bartlett said there was a “question mark” over the finances of the project.

“This is significant amounts of public money,” he said. “We hear this is about the place-making not the money but you try and tell that to the shareholders of Morgan Sindall who are in this to make money.

“One of the issues here is that we are losing revenue of nearly £750,000 annually [from the lost car parks].

“In addition, we are going to have to borrow to put the additional investment into this project – and this will be the case until the development is built out – to buy what we once owned.

“And at the same time we are told that once this is all done the land might not be worth anything.”

The car park is expected to be the first part of the development to be started with a timeline that this will begin early next year.

No other building work is expected until spring in 2022 with a planning application to reallocate development land only due for a decision today.

The proposals going before the council’s planning committee would see the number of flats on the site increased from 352 to 378, if approved.

This is achieved by reducing the other elements of the scheme, including reducing the amount of basement parking for residents of the new homes.

It is also proposed that the earmarked supermarket space would be more than halved to the size of a convenience store while similar reductions would be made to restaurant, bar and office facilities originally proposed.

Councillors will be asked to approve these changes when they meet this afternoon.