We always welcome a Letter to the Editor to share with our readers – unsurprisingly they don’t always reflect the views of this publication. If you have something you’d like to share, get in touch and of course, your considered comments are welcome below. This from Mark Board, MD of Jam & Sons Ltd in Cowes in connection to the proposed development of Medina Yard (Planning Application – TCP/28471/A – P/00496/16).
The application has been recommended by officers for ‘conditional permission’ and will be heard at the Isle of Wight Council Planning Committee on Tuesday 27th March (from 4pm). Ed
Cowes has developed over the centuries with the housing and high street predominantly to the west of the floating bridge and industry to the south.
This proposal aims to cover existing industrial land to the south of the bridge with the densest possible residential units, 5 and 7 storey blocks of flats with a pedestrian waterfront of bars, restaurants and other ‘attractions’ thrown in as a sop to the planners.
Zero chance of working
While this combination works in Singapore, Dubai and Gunwharf Quays in Portsmouth, it utterly failed in Town Quay and Ocean village in Southampton. The chance of it working here are zero.
In reality, if the flats were ever built, a very few of the ‘penthouse units’ and the few facing the river would be sold as second homes to ‘overners’ with the rest as third rate accommodation attractive to no-one. The chances of a bar or restaurant lasting more than a year in that remote location are minimal.
To make this industrial land fit for residential housing, a minimum of £25m is estimated for pollution clean-up, flood prevention and seawall repairs.
This would add at least £35,000 to the to the cost of each and every flat, i.e. a very unattractive proposition for a developer. In the present and foreseeable economic climate there is zero demand for such a costly development.
Loss of unique industrial employment area
With deep water and long waterfront, this is the ideal space for shipbuilding and related marine industries. We have three thriving companies in Cowes producing vessels much in demand, two of whom are under pressure to move to a proposed greenfield site in front of a residential area south of the power station.
This will require major dredging of existing wetlands, loss of wildlife habitat, compromise the new houses’ river views and extend commercial development into ‘greenfield’ unspoilt marshlands. A ‘lose – lose’ situation all round.
For fifteen years, in my view, the Harrison Trust has pursued a relentless anti-employment policy and, with the help of the terrible fire, has now got rid of almost all their tenants and razed most buildings to the ground. All this to pressure the planners into a zone change from ‘Industrial’ to ‘Residential’ and a massive financial windfall for the Trust.
The whole proposal is conceptually flawed and nothing more than a cynical attempt to increase the book value of the site. It goes against the original Island Plan, now under threat with the MVP2 proposals which look suspiciously similar to the applicant’s submission.
The planning committee meeting next Tuesday (13th March) should refuse this application and positively confirms the site as ‘Industrial’.
This will free the land from uncertainty and allow proper commercial investment to provide employment for Islanders. A change from ‘Industrial’ to ‘Residential’, with no hope of a viable development within sight, will condemn the area to continued desolation for decades to come.
Cowes and the Island deserve better than this from our own Council.
Image: © JTP