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Harness Isle of Wight’s history to help regeneration, experts say

The Isle of Wight’s remarkable history and architecture should be harnessed to help regenerate its three towns, according to a new report.

The report by Historic England makes a number of recommendations to support the regeneration of Newport, Ryde and East Cowes, which are facing issues including a growing number of empty shops.

It also warns that 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.

It describes Newport as ‘rich in history and architecture’ and recommends transforming it into a ‘lively, attractive, welcoming place for locals’, which builds on its strength as the island’s market town and civic hub.

In East Cowes, it recommends creating more 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.

The report also calls for high-profile buildings, such as the former Ryde Town Hall and the Columbine Hangar in East Cowes to be saved.

It also recommends that the Island rethink its approach to the car and start to champion electric vehicles, including bicycles.

The report comes on the back of news that both Newport and Ryde were among the schemes across England to have been selected to receive a share of the £95m fund to improve ‘historic’ high streets and buildings.

‘The Isle of Wight Council has shown great drive and determination in its ambition to turn around the fortunes of this special Island,’ said Historic England’s regional director for the South-East, Emily Gee.

‘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.’

Isle of Wight Council leader, Cllr Dave Stewart, added: ‘Along with our town council partners we are delighted to be able to tap into the expertise available from Historic England in addressing our ambitions for the future of our high streets on the island.

‘The Heritage High Street Fund announcement is a major boost to realising the value of the fantastic hidden heritage in Newport and Ryde.’

Photo Credit – Historic England

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