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A proposal to ‘restore, reimagine and enhance’ the 125-year-old People’s Palace and Winter Gardens claims structural damage is putting its collection at risk.


David Dixon (cc-by-sa/2.0)

Glasgow City Council’s administration committee will vote on proposals to begin a £36m renovation project of the city’s People’s Palace and Winter Gardens on Thursday (17 August).

The museum, which documents the social history of Glasgow, and its gardens were closed in January 2019 due to poor structural condition and associated health and safety risks.

While the main building reopened to the public, the winter gardens glasshouse has been closed since, causing the death of some of the trees and plants inside.


According to a document shared on Glasgow City Council’s website, the project would “breathe new life” into the 125-year old landmark, which was Glasgow’s first purpose-built museum when it opened in 1898.

It says the plans to “restore, re-imagine and enhance a critical cultural and historical asset belonging to the people of Glasgow” will see the institution become a “dynamic community-led museum and flexible space” with a new museum offer and improved access and orientation to and within the building.

Funding for the £35.9m project would include a £7.5m grant application to the National Lottery Heritage Fund, £11m from the council’s capital spending for 2025/26 and £12m from other public sector funders, to be sourced by Glasgow Life, the charity which runs the museum on behalf of the council.

If plans are approved and funding bids are successful, work would begin early next year with a completion date of Autumn 2027.

At risk

The report documenting the proposals says the “failing” People’s Palace building structure, water ingress, plaster damage and aging mechanical and engineering systems are all putting the collection “at risk”.

“The layout of the galleries and interpretation do not meet current best practice for accessibility and inclusion,” the report adds.

“Furthermore the existing environmental conditions within the Winter Gardens limit the opportunity to expand the collection into these areas or support a wider range of activities.”

Earlier this year, a bid to the government’s Levelling Up Fund to begin refurbishment works at the site was unsuccessful, which SNP councillor Greg Hepburn told the BBC had been “hugely disappointing”.

He added it was “more than a bit unfortunate that in recent decades it wasn't given the care and attention it demanded”.

Meanwhile, Glasgow Labour MSP Paul Sweeney welcomed the council’s proposals but spoke of declining external funding impacting Glasgow’s heritage assets.

“It has been devastating for Glaswegians that cuts to the council's budget over the last decade led to one of the city's main attractions falling into a derelict state,” Sweeney told the BBC.

“The UK and Scottish Governments have not lifted a finger so far to support Glasgow's world-class cultural attractions, despite Edinburgh's museums and galleries enjoying direct national funding.”