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February News from Ryde North East. By Cllr Wayne Whittle

There has been much change since I wrote my last report in early December for publication in the January issue, not only did we find ourselves in lockdown number three and quickly put in the highest tier, we also discovered that the South of England Avian Flu had reached Ryde affecting our waterfowl on Canoe Lake.

Apologies if my last newsletter asking residents who feed dry food to consider reducing the portions confused matters, but had written and submitted the report before the December 2020 Defra test results were issued confirming Avian Flu (Bird Flu) had been found in one of our swans. Once discovered, Canoe Lake was fenced off with notices posted instructing residents not to go near the lake for fear of spreading the disease (on shoes) to wider parts of Ryde.

Obviously don't want to come over as mister miserable killjoy here but since the access to the lake was prohibited by Defra I've had residents contact me who are worried about the remaining waterfowl starving and knowing many mums like to take children to feed the birds etc, I enquired, after speaking to professionals, it was explained to me that the natural diet of waterfowl is algae from the bottom of the lake or river beds (sometimes grass) and that in normal circumstances outside of an Avian Flu epidemic, if you wish to feed them, the best food is soft wet sweetcorn niblets or soft wet peas, as they tend to float to the bottom of the lake and can be eaten with the algae and cannot swell in the stomachs of waterfowl after eating (as this is how fatalities in birds that have been overfed with dry food would most likely to occur).

Our Covid infection numbers have risen exponentially throughout late December and January taking the Island from one of the lowest UK areas of infection to one of the highest, after hearing the chief executive of the Council stating that the main cause of the Island’s increased spread was people ignoring the lockdown rules, I've kept my family indoors apart from my wife’s weekly visit to the supermarket and our local walk to keep fit and get some fresh air now and again.

When we go out we now wear face coverings and keep over two meters away from everyone to help prevent this ferocious new variant spreading to the Island’s most vulnerable and further impacting our already overworked NHS, care staff and key workers who are already running ragged under the strain and losing members of their own organisations to the virus whilst looking after our community.

After reading an Environment Agency flood warning for Ryde during the holidays, I went to Simeon Street recreation ground to check if the Monkton Mead trash screens were cleared and that the floodgates were up.

Once arriving, noticed that although the flood warning had asked for cars to be moved from roads around the Monkton Street area, the floodgates were still not in place, so immediately notified the EA who sent out their local team to erect the three floodgates (this being the first time they had been put up and an opportunity to test the effectiveness to stop our community flooding) as the river was running high due to tide being in during heavy rain. 

Needless to say once the tide went out the river level dropped considerably with any high excess water going out to sea via the Island Line rail tunnel, so thankfully no flooding, but there shouldn't be when you think of the millions of pounds that have been spent by the Environment Agency and Southern Water over the years providing our community with the huge attenuation tank in the Memorial Gardens, (to be honest we've never had floods since that went in) the outfall pipe diversion into the harbour, Monkton Mead riverbank wall extensions and our flood wall/tank in the recreation ground.

The Island’s regeneration team worked throughout the holidays researching and preparing the new Government business grant forms that constantly needed revising as the Island swiftly changed through tiers 2, 3, 4 to where we now find ourselves.  The new forms have been available to access on the IWC website since the 11th of January.

If you haven't already applied, Island businesses eligible for Government grant support under the latest national lockdown can still apply. The application forms and details of the grant help can be accessed via: http://www.iow.gov.uk/covid19_businessadvice

Under the national lockdown there are rolling payments and top up grants for eligible ratepaying businesses in certain categories. Some businesses may also qualify for grant support relating to the brief period around Christmas when the Island was under Tier 3 and then Tier 4 restrictions. There is also support for ‘wet’ led pubs for late December. In addition, the council is offering government-funded discretionary grant help to businesses which may fall outside these schemes, and has created a Winter Business Support Grant scheme.

The grant schemes for which businesses can apply are as follows:

Rolling grant payments (from 5th January 2021) – These are 28 day rolling payments ranging from £1,334 to £3,000 depending on rateable value for eligible ratepaying businesses in certain categories (non-essential retail, hospitality venues, accommodation, leisure and sports facilities, entertainment venues, animal attractions, indoor attractions at venues, personal care facilities, community centres and halls).

One-off top-up grants (from 5th January 2021) – These range from £4,000 to £9,000 depending on rateable value, and are for eligible ratepaying businesses in certain categories (retail, hospitality and leisure sectors), which are legally required to close under the current lockdown, and which cannot operate effectively remotely:

Local Restrictions Support Grant (LRSG) – This scheme relates to grants that are available to eligible ratepaying businesses for the period during the earlier local Tier 3 and Tier 4 restrictions on the Island around Christmas and the new year.

Winter Business Support Grant (WBSG) – The council has created this scheme as an extension of the previous Additional Restrictions Grant (ARG) scheme, which operated for the previous November lockdown. This discretionary scheme will support businesses severely impacted by the lockdown, including those in the supply chain and not eligible for national lockdown or LRSG support.

Christmas support payments for ‘wet’ led pubs - If your pub was in Tier 3 between 2nd December 2020 and 29th December 2020 you may be eligible for a one off payment of £1,000. Island pubs were in Tier 3 from 26th December.

There is also extra financial help available for Island residents in crisis, the money can be accessed through Citizens Advice IW. You or anyone you know who needs help can call 01953 823859 or email helpthroughcrisis@iwcab.org.uk

It's been explained to me by the CX that now as the new Oxford Zeneca vaccine is available on the Island and because it can be stored at far lower temperatures, can now begin to be rolled out via home visits to our most vulnerable, who have been unable to attend vaccination centres.

If you need help with your shopping if your self-isolating or vulnerable you can call for assistance on 01983 823600 or email contact.centre@iow.gov.uk

Lastly as a reminder there are grants available for up to £10,000 towards helping those home-owners most in need to raise energy efficiency and cut energy bills by funding insulation, green heating systems like heat pumps, draught proofing, double glazing, solar panels and other energy efficiency measures, if you’re interested call 01983 822282 or email info@footprint-trust.co.uk

Stay home safe and keep in contact by phone or sight with your neighbours during this cold winter.

If any Ryde North East residents need my assistance you can call me on 07768118799 or email waynecwhittle@iow.gov.uk

07768118766

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