Exciting news from the IW Observer team

By IW Observer.co.uk Mar 26, 2022

The Isle of Wight Observer will be opening in the heart of historic Newport.

With the support of the Newport High Street Heritage Action Zone (HAZ), the former William Hill building in St James’ Square is set to be transformed into two high-quality commercial units, one of which will be the IW Observer’s new offices.

Before being converted into a single unit, 104 and 105 St James’ Square was two separate buildings, with individual identities. The transformation of the modern shop frontage back into two attractive units is being achieved using the Newport and Ryde commercial frontages Design Guide, written for shopkeepers, building owners, designers, planners, councillors, and anyone else involved in caring for shops and other commercial buildings in Ryde and Newport town centres.

The design guide sets a new standard for commercial properties in the two town centres, ensuring the frontage of shops, pubs and other buildings enhances the conservation area. It will help protect and enhance historic features that contribute to the character of our town centres, preserving our heritage for future generations.

It also looks to the future and gives guidance on adapting buildings to new uses while ensuring they still make a positive contribution to the street scene. The guide is designed to be accessible to everyone while also useful to building design professionals.

Martin Gibson, Newport High Street HAZ project manager, explained: “Regeneration of our High Streets in Newport and Ryde is crucial for their future and our new Design Guide will play a key role in helping to keep them vibrant and relevant.

“The Design Guide will help building owners and their advisors to improve shop-fronts and other commercial frontages, so they enhance the conservation area and create streets that look great.

“We want to ensure Newport is an attractive place people want to visit, whether for shopping or catching up with friends over a coffee – and the Design Guide will help to make the most of what Newport has to offer.

“The guide shows how we can build on the history of our important commercial centres and make them enticing and relevant for future generations to enjoy.”

Sally Thompson, Ryde High Street HAZ project manager, explained what the Design Guide will mean for Ryde. “The Design Guide is a significant project for Ryde High Street HAZ because it is a blueprint for how Ryde town centre can be improved for future generations to enjoy.

“By making the shop-fronts as attractive as possible, we can help to keep our High Street vibrant and attract more independent shops. We want the High Street to be a place that people choose to spend time there, not just pop in and leave.”

Carole Dennett, editor of the Isle of Wight Observer, said: “As a growing community newspaper, we want to be at the heart of the community and accessible to our readers and advertisers.

“We want to do our bit to help restore these heritage buildings back into two individual units, with attractive traditional frontages based on the historic imagery of the shops but taking modern standards into account.

“Nothing is going to happen overnight; we haven’t yet submitted our proposals to the planning department, but this is the start of an important journey for the IW Observer team.

“We’ve been fortunate to be able to work with the Newport High Street HAZ to pilot some of the concepts in the design guide with early access to a draft version.

“It’s helped inspire us and guide the architects working on our unit, making the whole process much easier. The finished units will have a positive impact on St James’ Square and we hope that others will follow our lead and help restore the historic character of this area.”

The guide is easy to access, with top-line general information and more technical advice for professionals.

There is an interactive web version, or you can download the full guide as a PDF from wdesignguide.uk