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January News from Ryde South. By Cllr Charles Chapman

Happy 2021 to everyone. We have all got a New Year filled with hope. Some of us lost loved ones in 2020, whether from a virus, cancer, ill health, accident or otherwise. We lost so much, not being able to visit, ‘cuddle’, or just talk to those dear to us, friends and even strangers. A year or more lost or at the very least, one for the history books, we need now to look to the future. One that is still apprehensive and feels a bit like putting our ‘toes in the water,’ but one that is also full of hope. People are accessing vaccines, which, with common sense and by continue to follow simple hygiene rules and good practices will keep the Coronavirus under control and enable us to meet together and rebuild lives. 

So much will change in our lives because of the ‘lockdown’ and restrictions that we are living under to halt the spread of this virus, much will return to so called ‘normal’ but there is a great deal that will not, it will mean change for all of us on a scale not known to younger citizens. Being older I am
worried about the pressure that this will put on individuals and families and on major changes, in the way in which we conduct our daily living, in that it could further fragment families and friends.

The good news is that we have found new ways to communicate with each other, some brilliant, some not so much. My own extended family have been involved in ‘YouTube streaming’ which has seen them attract large audiences. Others have been involved in quizzes and group chats
that they would not normally have participated in. So the big question now, is where do we go from here? Only time will tell, but what I do know is that it is important to keep the best of what we had and not to through the provable ‘ baby with the bath water’.

This brings me on to smaller business and their survival. It has been voiced to me that many small business were unfairly treated during the ‘lockdown’. Having to close their doors, when larger places were able to stay open. Also that High Street shops were suffering because people were worried about the spread of the virus, which somehow didn't seem as bad when shopping out of the town centre! Included in this is the cost of parking in our towns and High Streets, which placed an additional financial cost on High Street shopping, with street parking and car parks increasing their charges. The Council needs the revenue, but what good is that if the shops have to close down! One of my constituents reminded me that quite a few years ago her argument when advertising her holiday homes, and the subsequent cost of the ferries when dealing with holiday bookings, was that there was free parking in the towns and especially by the sea for most of the year. This then changed to parking charges for the whole summer throughout the Island, but free parking from the autumn and throughout the winter to the current situation which includes day charges all year round plus after 6pm or thereabouts charges, for the evening. Thus encouraging people to free street park where they possible can. Also such charges do not encourage local people to go out and enjoy the ‘view’. Holidaymakers probable are not so affected because they have factored it into their spending costs, but with the increasing rise of fares to our ferries, this is a grumble which could easily turn fester if allowed to go unchecked. In addition we need urgently to look at how we can support our town centres and parking costs is just one of them.

So what can we do? We need to think outside the box! We need new and perhaps a more radical approach. All suggestions gratefully received! One which has been posed to me is looking at how the ferry companies can help by adding a surcharge to the ferry cost, possibly a pound. Which
would then be paid over directly to the Council, in exchange for free Council parking throughout the Island. This would eliminate the cost of maintaining, ugly parking meters and all the signage that goes with it, paper work involved and their subsequent maintenance. Reduce the parking
workforce to a number of parking/community attendants or additional Community Police to ensure that people parked safely and which would also have the added advantage that it would increase a visible police/community presence on the streets. Certainly one to consider.

Ryde is blessed with a number of active and brilliant community groups. Look them up online if you would like to help. Our Town and Parish Council Office, in Lind Street has been manned throughout the pandemic and our workers have been available to help, to speak to a member of staff please call 01983 811105 Monday to Thursday 9am-4pm, Friday 9-2pm. There is a noticeboard outside the office which is updated daily. This includes helpline information. The Town Council are working with Aspire and other local organisations, not just for help about the current crisis, but for ongoing support and help on a number of issues. There are groups, individuals and people who care, just reach out.

As you probably are aware, my outside exercise, is to walk my Ward. I hope that you all are feeling sorry for me, when I could be walking on our beautiful Ryde beach. Yet I still manage to stroll along and am astonished by the variety of birds and wildlife present in our streets and hedgerow. It has made me even more determined to encourage the planting of trees and native hedgerow. To this end I am working with and encouraging our local services to be involved. Island Roads are continuing to resurface the roads in my Ward and as usual I am asking for your help in identifying areas that need ‘fixing’ or improvement. We still have difficulties with anti social behaviour and I am working with a number of groups including Sovereign Housing to help. 

Perhaps this is another issue where we need to ‘think outside the box’. Drug use and alcohol abuse is and continues to be a major social issue. Ryde is particularly affected, not only because of local use, but because of imports from the mainland. This is a problem for all of us to solve or
at the very least minimalist it.

Keep safe and keep happy and enjoy the New Year.

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