Proposals have been put forward for a waterfront culture centre in East Cowes that could be partnered with the V&A museum group (see in detail below) — but a leading businessman said it would be ‘absolutely ridiculous’ to displace the marine firms currently based there.
The East Cowes Arts and Culture Group (ECACG) is looking for support from the Isle of Wight Council, to enable it to approach the V&A and other international galleries and museums.
The Group make clear the plans should only be considered as a long-term alternative if the Isle of Wight council come forward with a plan for housing on the site.
Support from English Heritage
David Bailey Head of Historic Properties – Isle of Wight and Hampshire English Heritage gave the following statement of support following a presentation by the group. He said,
“Art, culture and innovation are three key threads that run through the history of Osborne, such was their importance to Prince Albert and Queen Victoria.
“It is therefore exciting to consider that just down the road from Osborne could be an arts and cultural resource within the confines of another, albeit very different, historic building, one that takes an innovative approach to development and further puts East Cowes on the map.
“There is an obvious synergy between what you are proposing and what we do at Osborne, so it would be wonderful to see it take shape and look at how we can potentially work together in future.”
The group compared its plans for the Venture Quays site to the newly opened Tate Dundee and Turner Gallery Margate.
Morton: ‘Absolutely ridiculous’
However, the chief executive of Wight Shipyard said the idea was ‘absolutely ridiculous’ as it would displace the marine industry based at the site.
Peter Morton said:
“Do they want to lay off 160 skilled employees and put in a cultural centre instead?
“They can go anywhere. Do they need a big floorspace next to the water? No. We do.
“You can’t tow a Red Jet down the road.”
Morton: “Kingston not suitable”
The ECACG said the marine firms were in the process of moving to the nearby Kingston Marine Park — in accordance with plans announced previously by the council — but Mr Morton maintained Kingston was not suitable and had no deep water access.
Morton: “Harebrained do-gooders”
“There is no joined up thinking. This scheme is just another one made up by harebrained do-gooders.
“The Isle of Wight needs to decide if it wants to build up its economy or become just another tourist attraction for people to walk around.
“I am incredibly frustrated by the complete lack of any concrete plan for long term employment on the Island.”
Hong Kong backer pulled out
Previous plans to transform the Columbine site, at Venture Quays, were plunged into crisis when the Hong Kong backer behind the project pulled out of the scheme in November.
After the plans for a 400-berth marina, plush townhouses, a hotel, bars and manicured public gardens collapsed, there were calls for the council and shipbuilding firms to take control of the site.
The site is still owned by Homes England, and negotiations to retain marine manufacturing are continuing.
A council spokesperson said:
“The council has been made aware of the alternative museum proposals as part of its ongoing work with local stakeholders towards the further the regeneration of the town.”
A long term business case for the building will now need to be put forward.
Supporters already on board
The group said the proposals have received support from the East Cowes Town Council, the mayor, Cllr Karl Love, the East Cowes Business Association, Isle of Wight Conservative MP, Robert Seely.
Read the plans in full below (click on the full screen icon to see larger version)
This article is from the BBC’s LDRS (Local Democracy Reporter Service) scheme, which OnTheWight is taking part in. Some alterations and additions may be been made by OnTheWight. Ed