Housing plans ‘an absolute destruction of Seaclose Park’

Plans to build houses on Newport’s Seaclose Park have been branded a destructive and unfair by a local councillor.

At a meeting of the Isle of Wight Council’s harbour committee, Cllr Matthew Price, ward representative for Newport North, which includes Seaclose Park and the eastern part of Newport Harbour, disagreed with plans to regenerate the harbour.

Outlined in supplementary planning documents, proposed by the Isle of Wight Council, part of the development of the harbour would include building more than 40 houses on the existing entrance to Seaclose Park, coming off Fairlee Road, and include building on the Fairlee Road Service Station’s site.

Cllr Price said that despite supporting the principles of regenerating the harbour, he had an issue with the proposed housing and lobbied the creators of the masterplan and regeneration team to reconsider.

He said: “My concern is, as the local member, that this is an absolute destruction of Seaclose Park and the ideas I had don’t seem to have been taken into account, in any form of the masterplan and certainly not in the version we would be looking at.”

Cllr Price also had concerns the development on the edge of Fairlee Road could have a negative effect to the Isle of Wight Festival – as proposals include building houses at the entrance to Seaclose Park which is used as the backstage area.

He said perhaps the festival was now more important than ever — following the cancellation of this year’s event, which was supposed to take two weeks ago, due to Covid-19 fears.

Responding to Cllr Price’s points, Chris Ashman, director of regeneration, said the proposals for Seaclose had been revised at least twice due to community feedback but that the regeneration team were challenged with producing a viable plan that gave the necessary housing opportunities the IW Council’s housing needs strategy requires in Newport.

He said: “The mix between affordable and privately rented properties that make the overall harbour scheme viable and affordable have been very carefully considered.

“The use of that area from Fairlee Road, that comes into Seaclose, was clearly a challenge in the loss of green space and we are anxious to work with local members to ensure the mitigation of that is managed as carefully and considerately as possible.”

Mr Ashman also stressed the urgency of bringing the harbour’s regeneration plan forward to help ensure the harbour stayed working, as maintenance and income challenges mount for the harbour because of the council’s overall financial position.

He said: ” The need for the project to create the revenue to sustain the Harbour has become even more urgent and more imperative given the only other sources available are rapidly becoming more difficult by the day.

“The strategy is one for the benefit of the Harbour, Newport and its community as a whole, to make the harbour a better space.”

However, Cllr Price disagreed the regeneration of Seaclose would support the harbour and would just affect residents.

He said: “I don’t think it is fair to even suggest building on Seaclose is going to benefit Newport and its residents.

“It isn’t and what that might bring to the finances to support the harbour in the future flies in the face of what Mr Ashman has just said.

“I have made it clear I am representing Newport North and residents are coming to me with their issues, their concerns and their objections on building on Seaclose Park.

“I cannot get away from feeling it is very unfair to consider allocating part of Seaclose as any part of support for the harbour in the future — it should be looked at in a much wider view of how it will effect Newport, the aesthetics of the biggest park in Newport and how it won’t benefit the local people.

“[The development] has a wider impact – it doesn’t build over the tennis courts, bowls pitch, but it builds right up to it and it changes everything.”