Work has begun to demolish redundant farm buildings in preparation for the first phase of a project at the Isle of Wight Council’s former Branstone Farm Studies Centre at Apse Heath.
A range of Island businesses and organisations has been involved in creating a new £13.6 million scheme including affordable housing, an outdoor education area, new green space, a rural business park area, and a new brewery and visitor centre for Goddard’s Brewery.
Nature and sustainability are at the heart of this flagship regeneration scheme which the Isle of Wight Council and its partners hope will serve as an exemplar for future development on the Island.
Inspired by the Isle of Wight Biosphere declaration in 2019, a group of organisations including Vectis Housing Association, the council’s regeneration team, the Isle of Wight Chamber of Commerce and other local partners have secured funding and planning consents to begin the creation of a new rural area where the Biosphere principles of live, work and play can come to life.
With a focus on the Isle of Wight’s Biosphere, about half of the farm site will become a new public green space which will be open to all, and include hedges, new woodland, ponds and an outdoor education area. This will continue the tradition of education on the farm, which was established by the then Isle of Wight County Council as the Branstone Farm Studies Centre in 1973.
The Isle of Wight AONB Partnership has been leading on the Isle of Wight Biosphere, and will be one of the first organisations to be based in the new Branstone Farm project.
With demolition commencing now, construction will continue for about 2 years.
Finance for the work has come from the partners and from national funds, with nearly £4 million coming from Homes England and the Solent LEP.
The business park will be built near the road, with the housing area further back in the quieter rural part of the site, and the new brewery and visitor centre at the western edge of the farm. The first affordable homes, and some of the business units are expected to be ready for occupation in 2022.
Cabinet member for regeneration and business development, Councillor Wayne Whittle, said:
“We know that around a quarter of all Island families struggle to find a suitable home of the right size in the right location.
“This key regeneration project will show how we are putting this right, not only by creating genuinely affordable housing to meet local needs, but also by using our beautiful Island landscape to make a sustainable rural community that respects and supports our Biosphere designation.”
Martyn Pearl, chief executive of Vectis Housing Association, added:
“This partnership of the local authority, the housing association, and private partners has proved to be very fruitful one.
“Planning permission for this project was achieved within 12 months of the start point, which goes to show that when we work together, we on the Isle of Wight are able to deliver much-needed housing in a prompt and efficient manner.
“I hope that this successful way of working will be used as a model for other developments on the Island and elsewhere.”