Isle of Wight Council leaders last night unanimously decided that they would make the final decision themselves over whether to proceed with the controversial Ryde Interchange Project.
During the council’s cabinet meeting they approved an amendment to the published papers, which recommended that the decisions be delegated to a council officer. A number of cabinet members, whilst citing their own reservations over the lack of earlier meaningful consultation, outlined how important it was that Islanders’ views are listened to and they have input into some aspects of the final project.
The £10million scheme, part of a much larger £56million bid to the Transforming Cities Fund with Hampshire County and Portsmouth City councils, aims to make the Ryde Transport Interchange area more attractive, and give greater priority to pedestrians and cyclists. It includes upgrading the pier tramway to make a walk/cycleway, refurbishing the railway station and remodelling the bus station, with a changed road layout. However, there has been concern about various aspects of the plans which have never gone out to pubic consultation. A retired town planner has raised concerns about road safety issues, a well-used block of eight public toilets is set to be demolished and the popular Pier End Café lost. Some elements of the scheme are still out for public consultation which runs until August 3.
Cllr Phil Jordan, cabinet member for infrastructure and transport, said that whilst some matters could be decided by officers in the meantime, the final decision on “whether to accept the £10 million or give it back” would be made in the cabinet meeting in September, or by calling a special cabinet meeting if absolutely necessary. In advance of the meeting, Cllr Phil Jordan said he wanted to assure people that views expressed in the consultation would be taken into account on elements where they have control. “Local residents can have their say and their voice will be heard,” he said. “We have been awarded a significant sum of money from the Department for Transport that is time-limited and for a specific purpose. We want to use this money to benefit Ryde residents, the wider Island community and visitors coming to our shores.”
On Tuesday the Corporate Scrutiny Committee, chaired by Tory Cllr Steve Hastings, considered the report and passed a motion saying that whilst they supported the project, there should be closer working with businesses and stakeholders. Cllr Jonathan Bacon agreed, saying last night: “Historically there has been a problem with engagement and information,” adding that it will be addressed. Councillor Fuller said: “We must be a listening council and we must act on feedback. Speaking after the meeting, an Alliance Group spokesman said: “What we have here is one of a number of inherited situations where the lack of openness by the previous Conservative administration has created problems. Their failure to engage properly, denying information and treating the council as their own private fiefdom for the last four years is something we have to deal with the after effects of. We also have to change things. We have taken some steps already and further steps are proposed to be taken at next week’s full council meeting.”
The consultation document and survey, together with frequently asked questions and copies of the plans, can be found at iow.gov.uk/rydeinterchange. Paper copies are available on request from PFI@iow.gov.uk.