Ongoing issues reported in Cowes, Newport, Ventnor and Ryde harbours

Plans by the Isle of Wight Council in the UK to manage maritime-related resources are presenting a number of challenges. Projects in Cowes, Ryde, Ventnor and Newport are all presenting specific difficulties or opportunities.

For a relatively small island on England’s south coast, the Isle of Wight is well-served by a range of maritime facilities which include the key yachting centre of Cowes and smaller harbours at Ryde, Bembridge, Yarmouth, Newport and Ventnor, as well as a number pleasure piers.


Cowes has a strong maritime heritage

Cowes is the island’s maritime hub with ship and boat yards, marinas and commercial marine facilities. The town has a long yachting heritage.

The Council has a large five to 10-year regeneration plan for the Isle of Wight and maritime projects are key to this programme. At Cowes, there are two key problems. Following the building of a new breakwater enclosing the seaward end of Cowes harbour on the eastern side of the town, there were plans to build a new 400-berth marina. Victoria Quay Estate Ltd (VQEL) won the concession to develop this project three or more years ago.

The marina is being developed for VQEL, a Hong Kong-registered company that is overseeing the whole project. VQEL is associated with Camper & Nicholsons Marinas (CNM).

Around last October, VQEL decided to withdraw from the project, which was called Victoria Quay. In a statement CNM told IBI: “Victoria Quay Estate Limited (VQEL) has decided to exercise its right to withdraw from the proposed Victoria Marina Development located at East Cowes on the Isle of Wight. VQEL’s decision to withdraw from the development was due to it being unable to secure commercially acceptable terms in regard to harbour infrastructure works necessary for the proposed development, coupled with escalating uncertainties surrounding Brexit.

“VQEL’s decision,” the statement added, “was particularly difficult given the substantial investment of time and expense it has incurred to date, which runs to several millions. VQEL would like to extend its sincerest thanks to Homes England together with the other stakeholders in the proposed development for the support extended to VQEL and its advisors.”

Further down the River Medina, which runs through Cowes, and also on the eastern side of the town, a plan to develop the Kingston Marine Precinct has also run into a hitch over problems related to the EU Habitat Directive. Trying to resolve this problem is ongoing. The plan for the precinct is to attract a number of yacht and boat builders and related services, and it is planned to be equipped with a 200-tonne travel lift.

At Newport, the island’s inland town on the River Medina, consultants have been appointed to oversee the redevelopment of the harbour there which is largely used by yachts.

Two other harbours owned by the Council are understood to be available for sale in Ryde and Ventnor. On the island’s south coast, the small harbour at Ventnor, mainly used by fishing and visiting yachts, is up for sale as the Council says it cannot afford the £130,000-plus running costs.

A similar situation applies at Ryde where the harbour has pontoons able to accommodate up to 150 boats up to 10m (39ft) for so. Here the problem is cost, as the harbour required a dredging programme costing in excess of £1m. A number of companies have reportedly shown interest in managing the harbour and related land area, which could possibly be used for housing.

A meeting is being held in Ryde today (January 28) to consider a proposal for Ryde Town Council to buy the harbour for £1 from the Isle of Wight Council.