Huge swathes of Newport town centre — including County Hall and the fire and police stations — could be turned over to housing if the Tories are re-elected at next month’s Isle of Wight Council elections.
Described as “ambitious ideas for how Newport town centre could be transformed over the coming years, whilst protecting green space from development elsewhere on the Island,” a statement from Conservative group leader, Cllr Dave Stewart, sets out the vision.
Scroll down for video…
The announcement comes in the same week ATS Tyres put its big South Street depot on the market.
With around 50 empty shops, cafes and restaurants lying empty, Newport is looking in a sorry state.
While cautioning that there is much work to be done on the feasibility of the plans, the Conservatives’ statement says County Hall, its car parking, fire and police stations and other public land could be demolished or adapted to solve the Island’s housing crisis.
Bygone era? County Hall, Newport
No figures are put on the plans, but Cllr Stewart told the County Press this week that if the Conservatives were re-elected, the group would go to government with a comprehensive proposal.
A combined police, fire and ambulance HQ, on a yet to be identified site, would be one element, as would relocating the Isle of Wight Council chamber and members’ facilities to Newport Guildhall, which would become a civic centre for the town.
Of course, everything rests on the decision of Isle of Wight voters, who go to the polls on May 6.
What else is included in the plan?
Other elements of the masterplan include:
• The designation of a wider area, east of Holyrood Street, St Thomas’s Square and Town Lane, for residential-led development, taking advantage of just-announced Permitted Development Rights to create new homes.
• Retaining much of the cultural heritage of the area, with historic buildings being retained and enhanced – and commercial, business and service uses remaining in place where existing businesses wish to continue in their present form.
• Minimising the number of additional cars associated with the residential development, by introducing a car club initiative where vehicles could be shared between public sector staff during the day and made available to local residents in the evenings and at weekends, in line with models being developed elsewhere.
Cllr Stewart told the County Press: “It is clear we need to do something to address two major issues; the housing crisis which means Islanders are struggling to find homes, and the situation Newport find itself in as the retail sector declines.
“If the Conservative group was re-elected we would look to move this forward within the lifetime of the next council.”
Asked where the money would come from for such an ambitious scheme, Cllr Stewart said he felt government help would be available if a proper case was made.
Money would also come from the sale of land to developers.
County Hall and some of its surrounding areas, as seen this week…
Cllr Stewart accepted some additional car parking would be needed but this could be incorporated into new housing areas, given good design principles.
He said other elements of the regeneration of Newport were falling into place, including the harbour order and associated proposals for regeneration of that area and the proposal for Newport FC to have a new pitch on Seaclose Park, where proposed housing would not now be built.
“When we get the other side of the election we would like to sit down with South Coast Leisure and really examine the proposal for the football club on that site as we realise time is tight on that,” he said.