As I mentioned last week, we’ve decided to use the blog and forum continue the debate of the scheme proposed for the stabilisation and repair to Undercliff Drive.
We asked David Groocock, Ventnor Hotelier to put forward his case in support of the scheme and the Undercliff Defence Committe will also have their say later in the week.
In addition, we will interview our contributors further and publish podcasts in the next couple of weeks, so keep checking back if you have an interest.
Oh, and don’t forget you can add your own opinion on the forum. It’s easy to register and you can do it all anonymously.
I am going to wear 2 hats as I write this, 1 hat as a Ventnor resident and 1 hat as a Ventnor business.
I have lived in Ventnor since 1966 when my parents moved here from Leicester to buy a hotel (St Maur) now currently owned by myself and wife. I have seen the heady years of the 60’s and the decline through the 70’s and 80’s which can be put down to several factors that directly affected Ventnor. It wasn’t until the late 90’s when the decline had been arrested that Ventnor has seen a steady improvement.
The first real damage was done to Ventnor when the railway was closed back in April 1966 this saw the demise of several small to medium sized guest house that solely relied on the train to bring visitors to Ventnor indeed my wife’s parents had a guest house in Victoria Street which closed for business soon after the railway closed.
The next decline was put down to competition from holidays abroad and the lure of the hot sunny Mediterranean resorts! Apart from 1973 1975 & 1976 hot summers, summers were very poor at this time so we could not compete with the weather. We relied on the trusty regular tourist who loved Ventnor and the Isle of Wight. But then we had a general recession in the early 1980’s so even that business could not be relied upon and with fewer people coming to Ventnor hotels began to either close or convert into flats/holiday flats or nursing homes. I would say we lost about 70 hotels and guest house during this time. I am a collector of Ventnor Guides and can go back to 1900 with these but a reference to a 1959 guide would show over 110 hotel and guest houses advertising in the Ventnor Guide!
Hotels (or accommodation providers) always need to upgrade and improve, in the early 80’s it was putting in en-suite facilities that helped bring in new business, but banks were very loath to lend on a declining industry. So you can see where this is going without so many people coming to holiday in Ventnor shops and other business’s also suffer, we all rely on each other to prosper, and if we all do well then the town looks better and so on.
The whole point for the potted history I have given is that you take any one element away from the equation such as one road then that has an affect on all business. You only have to look at the town’s high street to have proof of this. The undercliff is a vital link road to west wight and visa versa, it is a scenic road and will remain one after the work has been completed. As I said at the public meeting last Monday if we allowed one road never to reopen what decisions ride with the other routes to Ventnor all liable to close at any time, we must maintain all routes to our lovely resort.
Of course I always listen to the other point of view and there are some valid points here that must be considered as well, I do agree that we must look at long term solutions and must prepare Whitwell road to be improved and to take more traffic if anything should happen to the undercliff, but where I disagree is that this must be a final solution if eventually in the 50 years or so the undercliff is beyond repair. But here I am an optimist because there will be
new solutions by that time and on the evidence given by the experts I put my faith in this current scheme to last much longer than 50 years!
One other final point I must make and that is this, we all strive to become more environmentally minded and walk when we can and leave the car at home, public transport to Ventnor is not good and getting here for a holiday is difficult. The rail bus is a real boon to the town and must be preserved but sometimes I see it running empty, if we were really all that concerned about our environment surely all bus’s would be full and overflowing! Solutions to public transport rest with local and national Governments if these parties really meant what they preached then putting a railway or a tram system to Ventnor would be financed with private/public monies but they are not. So we live with a car generation and this is where investments must be made for better safer roads and cleaner carbon free fuels which is a
debate for another time.
David J. Groocock, St Maur Hotel, Castle Road, Ventnor