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January News from Ryde. By Councillor Charles Chapman

Dear Reader, welcome to 2023: for us ‘older ones’ the Christmas holiday meant meeting up with friends, some of whom I hadn’t seen for nearly three years. Dare I mention the dreaded ‘lockdown’? word. Meeting up this year, meant that we remembered that Christmas, last year, relaxed the restrictions on ‘meeting up’ with close friends and families. This was relaxed for the Christmas holiday period and was welcomed by all. For many of us who had been secluded in our ‘Pods,’ afraid to meet up with folk in case we either contracted COVID, or passed on to somebody that we cared for, it had been a difficult time. It seemed strange, this year, that we were remembering a time, which was only a year ago, and how thankful we were, if even for a few days, we were able to live a normal life.

It was also a time that we remembered those who had died, with the inevitable post-mortem on why, why them! Such thoughts and questions affected our younger family members as well us older folks. We poured over photos which, with modern technology, we were able to watch full size on our tv screens. For my family, we ended up viewing the previous twenty odd years, with many questions asked, and discussions raised, and sometimes even arguments about how our country and the world had changed since the beginning of the millennium.

Some for the good and some for the not so good. Surprisingly, was the interest and memories caused by the old black and white photos, that had been re-digitilised and even, a few, that we had coloured depicting old parts of both Ryde and the surrounding countryside. These raised various points of views about how Ryde, Binstead, Havenstreet and other local areas had altered over the years. A member of our wider family, who is over 96 years of age, was able to detail many of the changes in the landscape and of the inevitable building of, as she described it, of ‘a sea’ of new housing estates; all which appear to have joined parts of Ryde to other local areas, seemingly, to make one big housing estate. The discussions inevitable led to the lack in the Island’s long term planning, which meant, with a bit of flair, that some of this new build could have been built differently, more in the style of new villages, instead of boring estates joining one area up to another.

To focus on the ‘good’ Ryde appears to have faired fairly well in seaside town stakes, as both a seaside and residential town. ‘By and large’ it has kept its good looks and most importantly its welcome to new comers and tourists alike. There has been some highs and some lows in its growth and is lucky in that it has a sound Victorian heritage to build on. We are very fortunate that Ryde has action group supported by four funding partners known as The Ryde Project called by the Heritage Action Zone (HAZ). This group have worked hard and must be congratulated on what they achieved and it’s plans for our future. They have cleverly zoned their focus on Ryde High Street between the junction of Garfield Road to the North and St. John’s Road in the South. It contains a very mixed picture of 18th, 19th and 20th centuries architecture. Much of the latter, being 20th century infill, making the area difficult to envisage in the future. The history of Ryde High Street is fascinating. The original main High Street was over half a mile in length and formed the main street of Ryde linking to later settlements. During the 19th century the High Street in Ryde was a major shopping area, with a vast range of businesses, serving a substantial number of residential Victorian villas. Such housing not only accommodated its owners, but a large number of indoor servants and out door workers, all of which added to the customer footfall and the need to provide of a wide range of products, both in type and cost. It also meant that Ryde had to provide a vast range of local commodities and labour for its ever growing population. This led to a very prosperous town; from village to the seaside town it is today. Ryde is fortunate in that it has maintained a number of independent retailers, which are currently under strain, from the change in shopping habits exacerbated by COVID. The long term effects of COVID and its effect on the local economy are yet to be felt.

The HAZ programme aims to build a cultural led regeneration in the town, which will provide a much wider enterprise for us who live and work in Ryde. I trust that I have written a brief but reasonably accurate précis of just a smiting of their work, enough to tempt your appetite and hopefully, to encourage all Ryde residents to get involved. In this way we can leave a legacy to our children of a flourishing and interesting seaside town; one in which people will want to live, work and raise their families. This is important, as I have visited many seaside towns, in recent years, which are in such a decline that it is reflected in vacant run down areas, poorly maintained commercial buildings, shops and some very derelict housing. HAZ invites participation by all residents to be involved. It is easy to do, just go to their website and peruse their literature and pin your likes and dislikes on Ryde’s commercial streets via the Create Communities online platform. As they say, “it only takes seconds to answer”. Your view matters and is heard.

Changing the subject, my email box has been jammed with comments on not only on the road works in and around Ryde, but throughout the Island. Particularly focusing on St. Helens and Bembridge. It is not only the roadworks which are so upsetting but what appears to be the general
lack of activity at the sites. Several commenters want to know why the contract was not extended to a seven day week contract. As many of you wrote, the Island, by virtue of it being a tourist destination, is a 7 day week employer/employee: not only in the hospitality industry, but by such
employers as the health service, care workers, care home and other occupations. I, personally, feel that these and other residents have a valid point: why was the contract that meant the closure of so many Island roads to be closed at the same time, not subjected to a seven day rota-contract.

Not only would the roadworks been completed more quickly; but would have caused less disruption to businesses and for some small businesses, already on the brink of bankruptcy, additional disruption to their paying footfall. The council has a duty to ensure that the licensing for such projects are to the benefit of the local population and not the company who have the contracted for such work. Please keep your comments coming in and I will continue to lobby on your behalf.

I cannot comment on the weather over the past couple on months, other than to say that some days in November and December were more reminiscent of a monsoon than an English countryside. Anyone who was/is still unsure about climate change affecting our weather, which in
turn affects the growing seasons and thus our food supplies, must, surely, be convinced now that we need to ACT right now, if we are going to protect our livelihoods and our planet. It is something that every man, woman and child can be involved in - from the separation of our rubbish, to the amount of paper we use, to the number of clothes that we buy and wash, to the excess water and the fuel that we use. Perhaps we could learn from the rationing of almost all commodities during the last war and which lasted into the early 1950s. I might add, long after rationing had finished in most European countries.

Climate change is a ‘reality’ and whilst we can feel helpless in the face of it, we can also embrace it and build for the future. I get very frustrated that all too often, Governments, of all persuasions, have not legislated for both new and refurbished old builds to ensure adequate insulation, promote sustainable heating etc. etc., we have all been aware of the possibility of climate change, even in the last century, but I still see new builds without any solar panels, grey water installations, water saving plumbing, up to the minute insulation; without exterior shutters and low energy lighting with safe entrances. All modern builds should include energy saving lighting, especially and white goods etc., which encourage ‘off peak’ electrical use and other energy efficient gadgets as standard. It took us years to get legislation to improve both the
safety and efficiency in our cars, we don’t have the luxury to do the same for our houses. I am regularly invited to view new or open new builds, which easily could have been thought to have been designed and built over 50 years ago, instead of in the 21st century; we are still re-roofing
both old houses and our social housing, existing and new, with traditional roofing tiles and poorly fitted double glazing.

Lastly I would like to put in a plea for the air ambulance! As far as I am aware they receive no funding from the health service they serve, lottery funding, government or local authority grants.

Their money comes from us, the public, yet Islanders would be the poorer for its demise. All this, and I haven’t properly greeted you with a Happy New Year, and for us all to have a safe and prosperous one. Best wishes, Charles Chapman.

Note: The views expressed in councillor columns are personal and do not necessarily represent those of the corresponding town and parish councils or Beacon Magazine.

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