A view of Royal Victoria Arcade on Union Street in Ryde, the Isle of Wight.

Royal Victoria Arcade on Union Street in Ryde, Isle of Wight © Historic England Archive DP005296
Royal Victoria Arcade on Union Street in Ryde, Isle of Wight © Historic England Archive DP005296

New Report Makes Recommendations to Improve the Isle of Wight’s Heritage

Our new report 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.

Challenges

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.

A black and white photo of Lower St James Street on the Isle of Wight.
Lower St James Street on the Isle of Wight © Historic England Archive BB99 15042

Recommendations

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.
A view of Union Street - a shopping street - in Ryde on the Isle of Wight.
Union Street in Ryde on the Isle of Wight © Historic England Archive DP005310

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.

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. Emily Gee, Regional Director for Historic England in London and the South East

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