Council reaffirms commitment to protect Island jobs and boost the local economy

The Isle of Wight Council has this afternoon (9 July) reaffirmed its commitment to protect local jobs and help safeguard the future of ship building on the Isle of Wight by agreeing to proceed to the next stage in purchasing Venture Quays.

Members of the council’s Cabinet agreed to support the £1.3 million acquisition of East Cowes’ historic Columbine site – famous for its huge Union flag doors – subject to contractual agreement.

Investing in the prime waterfront site will not only protect at least 150 marine manufacturing jobs, but preserve key employment land for generations to come.

It will also give confidence about the future at a time when coronavirus (Covid-19) has created some uncertainty for local people and businesses.

Council leader Dave Stewart said: “Having completed our financial review following the impact of Covid-19, I am satisfied this acquisition still represents significant financial and social value for our Island.

“I am also satisfied the council remains financially viable and subject to the detailed financial terms being agreed by all parties should proceed with this investment in one of our prime waterfront sites.

“I say this because I see the 150 or more jobs this investment will protect; I also see the extensive opportunities for housing and business development in marine manufacturing we will be able to preserve and regenerate going forward.

“Many Islanders are already aware of the significant historical background that East Cowes generally, and Venture Quays in particular, has in terms of marine Engineering – from flying boats and shipbuilding, through to the highly skilled aluminium welding and construction involved in the catamarans of today which are built and sold across the world.

“This is a truly international investment opportunity on the Island for the Island.”

The acquisition has been the subject of talks with Homes England since July 2019 and includes three other nearby sites for potential regeneration.

The sites are collectively known as Venture Quays – and as well as Columbine, include the Victoria Barracks building, the Albany warehouse, and a Maresfield Road site currently used for car parking.

By acquiring the sites, the council will be able to maintain marine and associated industries at Columbine and potentially redevelop the Victoria Barracks site for leisure and public realm use, and the Albany and Maresfield Road sites for housing.

Councillor Wayne Whittle, Cabinet member for regeneration and business development, added: “This is not a commercial acquisition as we have made in other areas of the country.

“There our objective has been to generate income for the council and we have an agreed strategy that underpins these investments.

“This purchase falls outside of the strategy but falls very clearly within our aspirations to regenerate the Island’s economy and protect some of its key employment sites now and for future generations.”