A new report published today (Monday 23rd September) by Historic England makes a number of recommendations to support the regeneration of Newport, Ryde and East Cowes to help restore and build on the Isle of Wight’s remarkable history and architecture.
The Island faces a number of problems, according to the Historic Places Panel – a team of leading development, planning and conservation industry experts who voluntarily give their time to help Councils pursue better regeneration.
The retail areas within the three historic towns are home to a growing number of vacant shops and buildings showing signs of disrepair. Newport, Ryde and East Cowes also suffer from traffic congestion and their pedestrian environments are unwelcoming.
Reliant on tourism and cut off from the mainland, the Island has high levels of unemployment and a severe affordable housing shortage. Many younger people leave the Island to seek training and job opportunities, and the growing elderly population relies heavily on local health and social care services.
Having set up a dedicated Regeneration Team and produced an Isle of Wight Regeneration Strategy, the Isle of Wight Council invited the Historic Places Panel, assembled by Historic England, to provide advice on the regeneration of the three towns.
Following a two-day visit to the Island in June earlier this year, the Panel’s team of heritage experts have made a number of recommendations, including that:
- Attention in Newport should be focused on making the town which is ‘rich in history and architecture’, a lively, attractive, welcoming place for locals, securing its place at the heart the Island’s shopping, food and drink and cultural offer. This builds on its strength as the Island’s market town and civic hub.
- East Cowes provides waterfront space to 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.
- Action be taken to 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.
- With such significant potential for green living, the Island should rethink its approach to the car and start to champion electric vehicles, including bicycles – something which would complement both the hi-tech manufacturing and biosphere credentials of the Island. Electric-transport-only zones could diminish urban traffic noise and improve local air quality.
- The Isle of Wight Council develops design guides for new developments within Newport, Ryde and East Cowes. Armed with these, the Council will have the tools and confidence to promote and demand high-quality appropriate design and to refuse proposals for poorly designed buildings and schemes.
- Regeneration schemes include archaeology research. For example, archaeological excavations can offer social benefits. Communities on the Island, particularly educationally or socially marginalised groups, could enjoy volunteering opportunities and find out more about their local history.
- The Isle of Wight Council brings together the communities within the three towns to work towards achieving a single and collective strategy for the Island. Working in partnership their efforts can be harnessed for the good of the Island as a whole and for those who live and work there.
High Street Heritage Action Zones in Newport and Ryde
Early findings from the Panel informed bids by both Newport and Ryde communities to receive a share of a £95m pot of funding to improve their historic high streets. The publication of the report comes on the back of news that both towns were successful, joining just five other towns in the South East of England.
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.”
Studdert: Impressed by community group engagement
Peter Studdert, Chair of the Historic Places Panel, said:
“It was a delightful visit and the Panel was really interested and impressed by how engaged local community groups are with the Isle of Wight Council’s regeneration plans.
“The communities have a vital role to play in helping to shape the Island’s future prospects by working with the Council and each other.”
Stewart: Fantastic hidden heritage
Leader of the Isle of Wight Council, Councillor 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.”
Thompson: “Exciting time for future of Ryde”
Zoe Thompson from the Ryde Business Association said:
“This is a really exciting time for the future of Ryde. The Panel visit earlier in the year was inspirational. Although it is easy to focus on the negatives, what has really shone through is the potential Ryde has as a town. Being part of a community, who has been able to work together over the last 12 months, along with Ryde Town Council and the Isle of Wight Council, means we are now in a much stronger position to take on the feedback and the support on offer.
“We are really looking forward to working collaboratively to take opportunities and projects to fruition for the benefit of everyone who lives, works and visits Ryde.”
Jones Evans: “Our team is ready and excited”
Councillor Julie Jones Evans, Chair of Newport and Carisbrooke Parish Council said:
“This report and the Panel’s comments are most welcome and perfectly timed.
“Our Shaping Newport programme also identified the importance of an improved pedestrian environment to help people to enjoy our rich heritage and culture.
“Our team is ready and excited to bring about these changes with the financial assistance we have been offered by Historic England.”
News shared by Historic England. Ed
Image: © Damian Haworth