The Island Conservatives are setting out their vision for securing the renaissance of seaside towns and villages across the Isle of Wight, including more beach huts, improved access to the coastline and changing to planning policy.
After a challenging year – which has seen the Island’s coastal resorts being unable to welcome visitors during repeated periods of lockdown – the Conservative leadership at County Hall is pledging to do all it can to help revitalise these communities.
To complement their plans for the centre of the Island – Newport Riverside – the Conservatives are now setting out a series of ideas for how our coastal towns and villages could be supported as we emerge from the pandemic. A particular focus will be placed on working with local businesses to diversify and enhance the quality of visitor attractions and accommodation. In addition, there will be investment in coastal defences, beach management and the public realm, to ensure that both residents and visitors can take pride in these parts of the Island.
The ideas – which would be subject to development by a re-elected Conservative administration on 6th May – include:
- Consult on changes to planning policy for visitor accommodation, making it easier for historic hotel buildings to be replaced by (or converted into) high quality self-catering accommodation and smaller catered provision (with enabling residential development as well, if needed).
- Continue to work pro-actively to ensure that longstanding derelict, brownfield sites in a number of coastal towns are brought back into meaningful use, thereby improving the visual amenity of these locations and providing much-needed housing in sustainable locations.
- Support existing and new visitor attractions in all parts of the Island, by inviting proposals for diversifying and adding to the quality of the offer to prospective visitors.
- Work with Visit Isle of Wight to promote the Island as an attractive, accessible “staycation” destination for families, couples and the next generation of visitors.
- Invest in the maintenance and strengthening of coastal defences and infrastructure – including slipways, seawalls and wooden groynes – as agreed in the Council budget earlier this year.
- Work with relevant town and parish councils to agree appropriate levels of beach cleaning and lifeguard provision (where needed), particularly to ensure that more Blue Flags and Seaside awards can be secured.
- Improve pedestrian access along both cliff paths and seafronts, along with additional cycle access where appropriate/safe.
- Enable more beach huts to be provided in key locations across the Island, generating income for the Council at the same time.
This list of ideas is not exhaustive, and many Conservative candidates are promoting specific ideas for the wards in which they are standing.
“Tourism is a key part of our wider economy. However, the sector has had a very challenging 12 months, and we must now look at how we can help revitalise our coastal communities.
“We are putting forward a range of ideas, but this is just the start of a conversation with Islanders about a wider strategy for how we help our visitor economy get back on its feet – both this year and in the longer-term.
“The Council is already making thousands of pounds available to town and parish councils through the Welcome Back Fund, and we can look forward to seeing visitors staying at hotels on the Island later this summer when they are able to do so.
“But we must also look further ahead, and creatively explore how the Island’s visitor accommodation and attraction offer can be further enhanced. I am sympathetic to those who have worked in the tourism sector for many years but may feel constrained by existing planning policies that make it difficult for them to transition towards retirement or a different approach. I am determined that we look carefully at how we can support business owners in diversifying what they do. It is right to do this as we emerge from the pandemic.”
Councillor Steve Hastings, the current Cabinet Member for the Environment, Heritage and Waste Management, adds:
“We have some of the best beaches in the country. As more and more people come back to the Island to enjoy them, we must focus on how we can make them even more attractive for residents and visitors to enjoy. It is our intention to bring a Beach Management Strategy to Cabinet in the coming months, to set out in detail how seaside resorts can be supported on a number of fronts, including coastal protection. This – along with many other proposals – includes reinstating marker buoys which the previous independent administration removed.
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“I look forward to bringing these proposals to Cabinet in June and would welcome any feedback prior to then on what is proposed. In the meantime, let’s all get outside to enjoy our beaches and get ready to welcome visitors back to the Island.”