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Recommendations published to help Isle of Wight regeneration

Words: Laura Edgar
Ryde / Shutterstock_194401541

Historic England has called for towns on the Isle of Wight to allow for the growth of wind and tidal energy, save high-profile buildings, and rethink their approach to the car.

A report by the public body aims to support the regeneration of Newport, Ryde and East Cowes.

Several problems are highlighted by the Historic Place Panel, which comprises development, planning and conservation experts who voluntarily help councils pursue better regeneration. The retail areas in these three towns have a growing number of vacant shops and buildings that show signs of disrepair.

Further, they suffer from traffic congestion, have pedestrian environments that are unwelcoming, are reliant on tourism, and have both high levels of unemployment and a severe shortage of affordable housing. Young people tend to leave the island in search of a job and it has a growing elderly population.

The Isle of Wight Council has set up a dedicated regeneration team and produced a regeneration strategy as it looks to address the issues. It also invited the Historic Places Panel to provide advice on regenerating Newport, Ryde and East Cowes.

The panel visited the island in June, and have since made a number of recommendations, including:

  • Newport

- Work should focus on making the town a lively, attractive, welcoming place for locals by securing its place at the heart of the island’s shopping, food, drink and cultural offer. This would build on its strength as the island’s market town and civic hub.

  • East Cowes

- The town has waterfront space that would allow the growth of marine engineering, wind and tidal energy and digital technology, along with infrastructure for ferries, yachting marinas and, potentially, a site for a new boat museum.

  • Ryde

- Explore how to save high-profile buildings including the former Ryde Town Hall and the Columbine Hangar in East Cowes. The panel believes that these heritage landmarks are deemed worthy of conserving to benefit the island and for current and future generations to enjoy.

  • All

- The island should rethink its approach to the car and start to champion electric vehicles and bicycles. Electric transport-only zones could diminish urban traffic noise and improve local air quality.

- The Isle of Wight Council should develop design guides for new developments within Newport, Ryde and East Cowes. The council would then have the tools and confidence to promote and demand high-quality appropriate design and to refuse proposals for poorly designed buildings and schemes.

- The council should bring together the communities within the three towns to work on a single and collective strategy for the island.

Emily Gee, regional director for Historic England in the South East, said: “The Isle of Wight Council has shown great drive and determination in its ambition to turn around the fortunes of this special island. We’re committed to working with communities and organisations here to help take forward some of these recommendations for the good of its wonderful historic places, and to help breathe new life into the historic high streets in Newport and Ryde.”

Early findings from the panel informed separate successful bids by Newport and Ryde communities for a share of a £95 million from the government to improve their historic high streets.

Leader of the Isle of Wight Council Dave Stewart said: “Along with our town council partners we are delighted to be able to tap into the expertise available from Historic England in addressing our ambitions for the future of our high streets on the island. The Heritage High Street Fund announcement is a major boost to realising the value of the fantastic hidden heritage in Newport and Ryde.”

The report can be found on the Historic England website (pdf).

Image credit | Shutterstock