A major barrier to the regeneration of Newport Harbour has been overcome with a new harbour revision order agreed by the government.
The order will enable the Isle of Wight Council to negotiate longer-term leases for existing and new harbour tenants and move forward with plans to regenerate the waterfront and surrounding areas.
Key proposals, in the Newport Harbour Masterplan, include a new cultural centre, hotel, multi-storey car park, lifting footbridge over the River Medina and housing.
Councillor Wayne Whittle, cabinet member for regeneration and business development, said it marked an important milestone. He said: “This effectively takes the brakes off the scheme and puts us in a position where progress can be made.
“The timing is significant as the Island seeks to recover from the devastating coronavirus pandemic. Having all the permissions and flexibilities in place to attract investors means our harbour plans can play a major part in Newport’s and the Island’s post-pandemic future.
“Our redevelopment plans for the harbour will concentrate on existing ‘brownfield’ sites. We want to avoid the development of greenfield sites on the Island where possible.”
An Act of Parliament, dating back to 1852, severely constrained the council in that it could only offer potential tenants leases up to a maximum of three years. However, in the past, several leases were entered into by the council which breached the legislation.
Chris Ashman, the council’s director of regeneration, said Newport harbour was a flagship regeneration opportunity for investors. “The three-year limitation has been a major barrier to the development and improvement of the harbour,” he explained. “Funding for developments are linked to the length of the potential lease the developer might be able to obtain to develop new housing, business units or a hotel.
“In the past, the restriction on occupation has likely impacted investment in the harbour by commercial operators who would not see sufficient return on any investment in such a short period of time to make it worthwhile. The harbour revision order finally removes that barrier.
“The continuing operation of the harbour as a working facility will always be an important consideration in moving forward and the revenues generated will make a contribution to the essential maintenance the harbour needs.
“The needs of the harbour users are also key and will be an important part of the scheme.”