to Isle of Wight History Centre Archive of Monthly News Items
As previously featured in the History Centre

April 2018


April 2018
THE FUTURE OF THE HAMMERHEAD CRANE
IS FINALLY SECURED

hammerhead crane
When the Council Planning Committee passed the Medina Yard planning application, they effectively guaranteed a future for the crane. It had little chance of long term survival without the full refurbishment included in the development.
   The committee passed the application but on condition the industrial section outlined in phase 4 of the proposal is developed parallel with phase 1. A full planning application for phase 4 will have to be submitted and passed before the development can begin. The complete refurbishment of the crane brings to a conclusion a campaign its supporters have fought over many years, during which time they had to face considerable resistance.
  When the idea of preserving the crane was first suggested in 2002, it was met with public criticism from the council's own Conservation Manager, who was adamant it should come down once it was no longer operating. At that time, the preservation of industrial structures was something of an alien concept on the Island.
  When it was Grade II listed, the site owners saw it as inhibiting any future development and attempted to have it de-listed and pulled down. They claimed it was secondhand and had originally been installed at Portsmouth docks. Fortunately there was sufficient research material to demonstrate it was built for J.S.White.
  After the Cowes Hammerhead Crane Trust successfully applied to have the crane upgraded to Grade II*, it not only had a higher level of protection but also signalled greater involvement from Historic England.
  When Historic England declared the crane to be 'at risk', the site owners claimed they didn't own the crane and were not therefore liable for repairs. This prompted the Urgent Works Notice saga that ran for months in the media, with the council refusing to provide the finance to process a UWN, ostensibly on the grounds they might not be able to recover it through the courts. The whole issue ended up as something of a fudge, with the UWN eventually being issued in name only. Historic England paid for the work and its doubtful if anybody is going recover any money through the courts.
  While the long term preservation of the crane may be secured, the outstanding issue is the degree to which it will remain operational. The developer intends to manage the site once developed and has made it clear they do not intend to operate the crane, and it's unlikely any planning condition can force them to. Nevertheless, Historic England are seeking to prevent them from making alterations to the crane that would permanently prevent some form of limited operation by a future site owner. The developer has already proposed preserving a modest operation facility and there is talk of a feasibility study to see if any further degree of operation can be maintained.