In a 100 page manifesto, called a Place Plan, environmental consultant Ian Boyd outlined how the town can make the most of its unique landscape and architecture.
The meeting of the Ryde Society heard that the Esplanade is likely to be a part of the route of the new National Trail, the England Coastal Path, to be opened officially in 2021 as part of the national Year of the English Coast.
The Place Plan for the town – jointly financed by Ryde Town Council and Isle of Wight Council – envisages preservation and improvement of public spaces and the town’s buildings. There are 470 Listed Buildings in Ryde and 75% of Union Street is also listed. Many buildings, however, are in desperate need of tender loving care. There are 8 listed churches and 2 scheduled monuments.
Ian Boyd said:
“The Island, and I think Ryde more than anywhere, has been designated a Biosphere Reserve. It means an area protected by UNESCO for plants and animals of unusual scientific and natural interest.
“That is an extraordinary achievement. It comes just at the right time to support bids for investment that may be available.”
But public green space is a rarity in the town. Referring to Ryde’s expected urban extension – if all development applied for goes ahead it is expected to be 30% bigger – Mr Boyd emphasised the importance of creating and joining up green spaces.
Members of the society warned against the wrong kind of development. Jonathan Dent feared developers who want to decide what Ryde is going to look like.
“At one point Isle of Wight council presented plans for five skyscrapers along the seafront. Fortunately, it wasn’t approved. Unjoined up thinking has to stop. Just like when the Isle of Wight Council sold off Ryde town hall for £300,000. At the moment we have Vectis Hall, a Grade Two listed building, practically derelict and the closed town hall has buddleia growing out of it.”
Another member of the audience, writer David Icke, asked what is happening to the former ice-rink on the seafront. The meeting was informed that the building was still subject to litigation. Mr Icke feared the island’s infrastructure, including roads and the struggling hospital, will be unable to cope with a big increase in population.
Ryde Society chairwoman Stella Davis thanked Mr Boyd for his report. She said:
“People need to think about new and better ways to put the town’s natural capital – its wetlands, beaches, ancient woodland and green spaces – to work for the benefit of the community. This meeting is a good starting point, but just that. As a town, we’ve been driving with the handbrake on.”
Ryde Place Plan, published by Arc Consulting, can be viewed here.