COUNCIL SLAM PETITION OVER RYDE ESPLANADE DESIGN THAT RESIDENTS DIDN’T GET A SAY ON

The Isle of Wight Council has slammed a petition which calls on the authority to get planning permission to make the proposed changes to Ryde Esplanade.

The authority says those who started the petition have misinterpreted the planning process it is required to follow when developing highway improvements.

The petition has gathered more than 400 signatures in under a week and was started by former member of the Ryde Regeneration Group, businesswoman Cathy Foulkes.

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In the petition addressed to the council’s leadership team, Mrs Foulkes says on 15th July, when the matter comes before Cabinet, the authority will decide whether to support a plan to make enormous changes to the Esplanade without going through the same planning process Islanders are expected to follow.

The petition says:

“The people of Ryde and visitors enjoy the seafront and beaches. We want the town to thrive and expect to have a say in major changes.

“The council must morally, if not legally, follow their own rules.”

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Mrs Foulkes says the current consultation run by the Council does not let residents have a say on important matters as it ends after the scheme will be implemented and power handed to the director of neighbourhoods.

Some of those matters said to be of major importance include:

  • removing the popular public toilets, café, public open space and car parking;
  • supposedly creating 1.3km² more highway space;
  • obscuring views of the Victorian seafront buildings;
  • rerouting buses up George Street;
  • increasing traffic congestion and damaging the environment;
  • adding street clutter such as signage and traffic lights where presently traffic flows freely

Responding to the petition, an Isle of Wight Council spokesperson said it was grateful for the interest being shown in the proposals but it fails to recognise the proposed improvements like the station refurbishment and tramway pier reinstatement. They said:

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“Residents should be assured the council has followed planning procedures properly and the current consultation provides an opportunity for them to be involved again in the development of the scheme and to help ensure the best decision is made about this project.”

The Council says the scheme was developed in consultation with the Ryde Regeneration Group — with representatives of Ryde Town Council, Ryde Business Association and Ryde Society — who, at the time, sought relocation of the cafe and toilet block to increase the visibility of the pier, which will now happen. However, local residents were not consulted on the plans meaning such a major decision has been made by a small handful of people.

Facilities will be provided within the remodelled station building, the council say, including fully accessible disabled toilets, a new facade, an expanded cafe and access to the boardwalk.

The vehicle access to the pier will be moved to where the toilets and cafe currently are, creating a drop-off and pick-up area.

The spokesperson said:

“The main purpose of the project is to improve connectivity and accessibility for travellers at the gateway to Ryde.

“At the same time, it aims to make the area around the interchange, pier and Esplanade a better, safer place for people to visit and enjoy as a destination in itself. Improving the environment for pedestrians is at the heart of the plan.”

The council says the scheme rebalances land use in favour of pedestrians and cyclists rather than motor vehicles — providing 988m² more pedestrianised public space — with the scope for significantly enhanced planting to make up for the areas that will be removed.

As the £10million funding is coming from the Department for Transport, timescale conditions have been set out which must be followed — including the final deadline of March 2023 for all projects to be completed and working.

The council say the purpose of the cabinet decision, which does not prejudge the findings of the consultation, will help avoid any programme delays due to the political recess over the summer which might affect the authority’s ability to secure funding.

Another condition, which was critical the council say in securing the funding for the wider project, was the proposed arrangements for buses to access George Street directly when heading westbound — rather than the extended trip around the Esplanade.

You can view the petition at www.change.org/RydeEsplanadeMatters.

Island Echo – Isle of Wight

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