Parkhurst deal done – but no time for scrutiny

By Chris Cornford Apr 6, 2021

The Isle of Wight Council this week reached an eleventh-hour agreement with the government to take ownership of roads and public land on the Parkhurst Estate.
The agreement only just met the March 31 deadline set by the Ministry of Justice, the day the Isle of Wight Council finally accepted the offer. As part of the agreement the council will receive a one-off sum of money from the government to upgrade and maintain the roads, footpaths and land included in the deal for the foreseeable future.

A report, prepared for the cabinet meeting on March 11, identified the main financial risk to the council to be future maintenance costs. According to officers, the roads involved are of ‘non-standard construction and historic design’ and would need total reconstruction to bring them up to a suitable standard to be included within the Roads PFI. They said the sum of money the Ministry of Justice were offering would only cover repairs of existing defects and on-going maintenance.
The cabinet decided ‘in principal’ to accept the deal but instructed Chris Ashman, director for regeneration, to attempt to renegotiate some parts of the deal, leaving the final decision to be made by a single cabinet member using delegated powers.

Cllr Brian Tyndall, cabinet member for corporate resources approved the agreement on Wednesday.
It is regarded as a key decision for the council because of the area’s importance to future regeneration plans for the Island. The cabinet report referred to failed bids to attract funding in 2015 and 2018 for up to 1,750 new homes in a new ‘garden village’ on the Camp Hill site, not included in the current agreement. Officers said the bids did not succeed because detailed studies concluded it would be difficult to find development partners due to ‘prohibitive’ infrastructure costs.
The details of the final deal were not subject to the usual scrutiny procedures because of the shortage of time. All financial details and risk assessments were deemed to be confidential and have not been made public and no map yet been made available of which property is included in the deal. Some areas of the Parkhurst estate are excluded.
Chris Ashman, the council’s director of regeneration, said it was good news for the area.
He said: “The highways and footways are in a poor state of repair and local residents have been concerned to see improvements made for some considerable time.
“The council, as highways authority, is better placed to oversee the repairs and future maintenance and as part of the transaction the Ministry of Justice will make a financial contribution towards the costs.

“As part of our regeneration programme, we will work closely with local residents to prioritise the works to be undertaken and achieve the best possible outcome using the funds available to improve community cohesion and quality of life.”
It is expected that works will take up to two years to complete with the council communicating with residents as plans are confirmed.
Local councillor Andrew Garratt was pleased agreement had been reached. He said: “Since my election in 2017, I have worked with residents to lobby the Ministry of Justice as the estates had deteriorated for over twenty years.
“We had made some progress ourselves in lobbying the MOJ. For example, a number of streetlights were repaired and replaced last year.
“Residents will also want the details of how they will be involved and play a full part in the council’s decision-making about the improvements that can be made, in particular getting streetlighting that works across the estates.”

Residents can contact the council via a dedicated email address