The meeting, held by the Ryde Society – whose Chair Stella Davis said the seafront is an internationally important site of special scientific interest – was addressed by Chris Ashman, the council’s Director of Regeneration and its Deputy Leader Councillor Stuart Hutchinson.
Residents’ anger centred on accusations that the Council has been investigating ‘selling off’ Ryde Harbour without consulting the community.
The meeting at the Esplanade Hotel – attended by up to 200 people – turned acrimonious when celebrity writer and resident David Icke, claimed regeneration was “about making money for a very few people” and said the Isle of Wight Council should be the subject of an independent investigation and financial audit.
During heated exchanges, Cllr Wayne Whittle gibed that Mr Icke should consult his ‘father’ as it had been alleged that he had claimed to be the son of God (a reference to Mr Icke’s appearance on the Terry Wogan show back in 1991).
Residents called for the town’s seascape, with its Georgian and Victorian buildings, to be preserved.
Among protests about lack of information regarding plans for the harbour was a complaint by one of the Ryde Society’s leading figures, Jonathan Dent, that his emailed questions to Cllr Hutchinson had consistently failed to get a reply.
A harbour official told the meeting he had only heard through the Freemasons about mooted proposals to sell it off to a dredging company.
Ryde Harbour makes a profit, residents pointed out. However, Cllr Hutchinson said money was required for dredging, wall repairs and other maintenance.
Highlighting pressure on the council’s budget, he said over the last 8 years it has had to save £76million, and further big savings were needed.
Cllr Michael Lilley said there had been inadequate consultation, the harbour should be listed as a community asset and no further action should be taken until there had been talks with Ryde Town Council – which has offered to buy the harbour for £1.
The next meeting to discuss Ryde Town Council’s bid will be at the Garfield Road Methodist Church at 19:00 on Monday 28th January.