Call for ferry boss ‘to be honest’ about expansion plans as counter-petition launches

Residents and businesses are coming together through an online petition to oppose plans to expand the Red Funnel ferry terminal in East Cowes. Read the open letter from one of the marine businesses to the ferry company’s CEO.

save venture quays

Last week Red Funnel launched a petition calling on residents to register their support for plans to expand their ferry terminal in East Cowes, which they say forms part of the East Cowes Regeneration.

The Save Venture Quays & Dover Road Facebook Group are now calling on Islanders to support their petition in opposition to the plans.

Have your say
Red Funnel’s planning application for the expansion is currently open to public comment, but closes on 19th February (see details on the council’s Website).

At time of publishing, there were almost 400 comments on the application.

Plea from businesses
Jason Hayman of Sustainable Marine Energy Ltd has shared an open letter to Red Funnel’s CEO, Kevin George (see longer version at bottom of this article), calling on the ferry boss to “honest about Red Funnel’s ‘Once in a lifetime opportunity’ in East Cowes”.

Mr George,

At my company we are fans of Red Funnel’s service, and we would like better facilities in East Cowes. We also want to see East Cowes properly regenerated to assure the town has a solid economic future. Your proposed ‘better gateway for the Island’ does not do this.

I read your flyer, and I am concerned that you are asking the public to support your planning application without providing them with all of the facts.

Tax payers’ money
I agree that the scheme you are proposing is a ‘once in a lifetime opportunity’, but only for Red Funnel. It is unusual for a private company to be offered prime waterfront land by a government agency, and be offered public funding to purchase the land.

To then be allowed to package up a significant portion of the land acquired using tax payers’ funds, along with land you already own and sell it to make a profit with only outline planning; what business wouldn’t jump at that opportunity?

A renaissance of Marine businesses
One could understand if the land was derelict and of no value to the Island’s economy. Marine businesses in East Cowes have enjoyed a renaissance and now ourselves, and our neighbours AMC and Shemara Refit, are all busy, including building your new RedJet 6! The Venture Quays and Trinity Wharf sites have over 200 people working across them and will be demolished under your plan.

We signed short leases with the HCA when we arrived. We had no choice; that was all we were offered. Rents are not low! We are paying market rates, our research shows more than on the mainland if we were to relocate.

Refused any meaningful dialogue
We were shocked that there were no considerations made for marine businesses requiring access to the water in your plans. We contacted you and others to talk about modifying the scheme to include a marine technology cluster.

You have refused any meaningful dialogue. It appears that you are just going to try to resort to large company PR to get your planning application approved.

Be honest with the public
You are asking the public to support your scheme; please be honest with them! You are asking them to choose between a new terminal and more second homes with the loss of two valuable employment sites, or the potential of jobs if a hotel is built.

We want to engage in a transparent dialogue with you, HCA, the Council, and the community about a regeneration plan for East Cowes that will deliver new terminal facilities and also provide East Cowes and the Island with an economic future that benefits the community.

My door is open
My door is open should you wish to discuss how this could be achieved. I’m sure the public would like to hear your views on this first-hand. A public meeting can be arranged in East Cowes where we could discuss this in an open forum.

Mr George are you were willing to do so?

Join us in figuring out how to make this a true ‘once in a lifetime opportunity’ for the local community and your customers. Instead of a plan which just serves your own interests.

Yours sincerely, Jason Hayman, Managing Director, Sustainable Marine Energy Ltd

This flyer has been created by the group and is being distributed in East Cowes …

Read Jason’s full length letter to Kevin George

Image: © With kind permission of Reg White via Save Venture Quays & Dover Road Facebook Group

Location map
View the location of this story in East Cowes, England, United Kingdom.

Friday, 12th February, 2016 9:21am



Filed under: East Cowes, Island-wide, Isle of Wight News, Planning, Top story

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Any views or opinions presented in the comments below are solely those of the author and do not represent those of OnTheWight.


  1. wightwitch

    12.Feb.2016 10:28am

    Whilst Kevin George insists there is “only one place for terminal” [cp. Feb 12] he clearly realises that his arguments are really weak having felt the need to publish a petition to try and gain support – the plan whilst economically viable to their company will be detrimental to the economy of the Island as a whole. There are very few benefits for Islanders. One must ask ourselves why a ticket office double the size of the current one is needed when there is usually only one person selling tickets? It is clearly to house their new coffee shop from which they plan to make a lot of money. It is not about getting footfall into East Cowes as they have stated in their documentation time and time again.

    The ferry service will not be improved … the business model states that it is to increase capacity on the current crossings therefore increasing their profits. Red Funnel are currently only running at capacity 50% of the time bringing in around 750 Cars a year. Therefore when running at 100% they would potentially be bringing in 1.250M cars a year …. However the model does not detail how they plan to increase capacity – it does however state that travel has reduced over the past 6 years! Whilst personally I am not against their plan to expand why should it be to the detriment of viable businesses? Currently as stated in their documentation Venture Quays is occupied by 5 businesses employing around 150 highly paid high skilled jobs to local people. Unlike the tourist industry (again quoted from RF business model) which is dominated by low pay low skilled employment opportunities.

    If Red Funnel believe that they require this expansion; that it is for the good of the Island then they should be working with local businesses in order to ensure that their expansion plans to not impinge on any other businesses and certainly not loose such valuable employment land. If they need to increase their marshalling yard then they should be prepared to stay in their current location and invest in a decked yard as is being proposed in both Portsmouth and Southampton. This could still be accessed via Well Road and would be best placed for easy access to the link span ensuring that homes in Dover Road would not need to be demolished. Festival week-ends Red Funnel use an out of town overflow carpark which works really well and there is no reason why this could not become a permanent facility.

    “Contrary to belief, there is no reason for current jobs to leave the Island. The proposed redevelopment of the Red Funnel site in East Cowes will create an estimated 200 additional jobs and maintain many more.”

    Whilst some of the business currently on Venture Quays could relocate on the Island IF there were premises available – some of them most definitely could not! The site being referred too at Kingston should have been developed by HCA and the IWC by the end of 2014 – it is currently a field and not suitable for the relocation of anything let alone state of the art businesses.

    The Red Funnel proposal would almost certainly ensure that some high tech employment would move off of the Island. Jobs that we cannot afford to loose! More importantly the apron has had millions of pounds of tax payer money spent on it in order to create a marine cluster to improve the employment on the Island. Once Red Funnel have it the potential of this site as a Marine hub will be lost forever. The Island CANNOT AFFORD to loose any jobs and if anything the IWC should be encouraging these businesses to expand here – it should not be a case of Kingston or Venture Quays … it should be Kingston AND Venture Quays! Our young people and the Island as a whole require sustainable skilled higher paying jobs particularly more now than ever.

    The Red Funnel plan speculatively suggests that it could create 200 jobs : they would be in the ‘proposed hotel, cafes and bars’ – again low paid, low skilled jobs … there are loads of empty shops and in East Cowes currently ! There is no reason why if Red Funnel had a decked yard on their current site we could really gain the benefits of regeneration …. Increased tourists; high skilled marine hub and a thriving town centre ….. which is what we were promised almost 14 years ago when this regeneration debarcle started.

    As Kevin George states “With the government stripping away more and more from the Isle of Wight Council’s budget, the Island vitally needs economic growth to stop the region flagging behind the mainland. [CP 5th Feb]

    We need more higher paid jobs in order for our economy to grow – what example are we setting to businesses who have invested in the Island and encouraged by the IWC policies only to be turfed out again? East Cowes is just seeing the green shoots of regeneration with the businesses in Venture Quays ….. an holistic vision for East Cowes could see us all winners. Unfortunately the Red Funnel plan as it stands only creates one winner and that is RED FUNNEL. A new shiny marshalling yard will not be our saviour ……

    The People of East Cowes and the Island deserve far more and if as we are led to beleive it is the good of the Island at stake here they why not work together with local businesses to ensure a plan that works for everyone is adopted.

    If people stepped back and had a re-think there is no reason why the local businesses and Red Funnel could not prosper in East Cowes which in turn could help to kick start the Island’s economy and provide us with a gateway to an Island that can start to become self-sustaining – an Island we can all be proud of.

    Is this such an unreasonable request?

    • The Ancient Matelot

      12.Feb.2016 12:58pm

      An excellently argued comment wightwitch

      • Concerned

        12.Feb.2016 7:46pm

        You say “It is unusual for a private company to be offered prime waterfront land by a government agency, and be offered public funding to purchase the land.”

        People have very short memories.

        In the late sixtes, Bembridge Harbour was sold to a local group incuding the them MP for an all in price of 17,000 pounds, including the back marsh lands. For this they were then given a one hundred percent mortgage by British rail, the then owners to complete the purchase.
        Shortly after planning concent was given to the group to develope the harbour with the town houses
        Game set and match !!
        Unusual? I don’t think so

        • Look also at what is happening in Fareham with a new town (Welborne) of 6000 houses (approved by “government inspectors” (sic!) and now the developers being offered Compulsory Purchase Orders to acquire the land necessary.

          BTW Fareham has a Tory “Mayor” leading a Tory dominated Council- so no surprises there then about planning decisions and and developers’ path being smoothed with CPOs!

  2. Diogenese's Barrel

    12.Feb.2016 10:57am

    Well said Wightwitch!

    The existing Red Funnel marshalling yards adjacent to Link Road were created by the previous demolition of homes and businesses. These existing yards are vast enough to provide more than enough space for a professionally-managed company to operate the flow of computer-booked vehicles onto their ferries.

    But no, Red Funnel simply will not spend sufficient money on trained staff to manage the vehicle flows into and out of these existing marshalling yards with the resultant backing up of traffic along York Avenue.

    Red Funnel you have no need for more space, all you need to do is employ, train, supervise a team of intelligent people to manage your existing resources.

    But no, Red Funnel wouldn’t want to spend any money, all they want to do is grab cheap land and sell it on to some developers so they can make a fast buck.

    In reality this Planning Application has little to do with running a better ferry service or regenerating East Cowes, it is all about Red Funnel’s balance sheet.

    Please object on the IWC website.

  3. I have just read a number of comments on the council web site . The first thing I found is that about 30% of the comments are from people on the north island in support of this demolition of east cowes .The second thing is that not one of the comments had any thing to do with planning reg’s .I am lead to believe that most off these are just that and have nothing to do with planning laws so will our council take this in to consideration when deciding on this application ? .I might be wrong but I thought that the planning department could/should only consider building /planning regs . If that is the case then this petition is a total waste of time

  4. wightwitch

    12.Feb.2016 1:16pm

    Hi Tosh
    The petition will not count as a material consideration for planning however people have asked for one against the application and it will be good as a measure especially when Red Funnel have published thousands of them and we have nowhere near that capacity. Therefore if we produce a petition with near enough the same amount of responses then theirs will look poultry. Most of the people who have responded are Red Funnel customers who are using the misleading that was published last week as their ‘knowledge’ of the plan – therefore we have produced counter info in order for people to be able to make an informed decision on the matter. It is interesting to see that people are putting that they are in support when like you say they don’t even live here and will not be impacted by the devastation it causes. I read an interesting one the other day from an Island resident who was in support of the plan …. but didn’t want another hotel as it would affect their business!!! Just goes to show that some people unfortunately are very selfish ….

  5. Thanks for that . The only way that RF will get that amount of signature’s would be if they sent out e mails to all the people who us them

  6. Barry watkin

    12.Feb.2016 6:03pm

    Always good to keep ‘genuinely up to date & not be taken in by gossip!’

  7. nice photo. Yes of course you can use it ;)

  8. Why should the council entertain this application in the absence of a commitment by Red Funnel to substantially increase the frequency of sailings together with a large reduction in fares?

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