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

July - September 2019

July 2019
Almost every major Island town has a heritage centre, developed and run by dedicated volunteers. It is something of an anomaly that the Island's capital has never enjoyed such a facility. Now a group of Newport's historians are looking at the possibility of creating just such an attraction.
   Newport has a more diverse and influential past than any other Island town. It has been subject to intense research by local historians for generations, so there is a considerably body of archive material and artefacts, much of which has never been available to the general public. Some of the historians who have accumulated much of this material are only too keen to find a way of making it accessible. It is they who are now seeking to establish a Newport Heritage Centre.
  As many heritage centre operators know, it takes a great deal of dedication and time to establish the attraction. There is also the question of premises. In some circumstances premises can be donated but they are generally difficult to acquire without funds. Heritage Lottery funding may well be necessary to get up and running.
  The council's museum service have already offered their support and advice. They liaise with local heritage centres, giving guidance on the storage and presentation of materials, and helping with promotions. Once a centre is established and meets the necessary security levels, the council can loan artefacts from its own collection.
  Local heritage centres fulfil a slightly different function from that of the Island's major museums, in that they probably rely less on tourism and more on local interest. Indeed their archives generally expand as a result of locals contributing from their own knowledge and private collections. If the centre's proponents can provide the energy to get it going, Newport's rich history and substantial population should insure it develops into a highly successful focal point for exploring the town's heritage.

EC Heritage Centre
One of the Island's longest running heritage centres is at East Cowes. It is a fine example of the facilities such centres can provide, with a museum, extensive archives, knowledgeable staff and regularly changing displays.

August 2019
Back in April 2018 it looked as if the protracted saga of the Medina Yard development had finally been settled when the planning application was passed by the council planning committee. Since then further steps along the planning route have not progressed, leaving supporters of the hammerhead crane wondering whether the development and the crane's preservation is likely to proceed.
Medina Yard
   A complication arises from the nature of the planning application and the way in which the council planning committee dealt with it. The application sought full planning permission for phase one of the development and just outline permission for another three phases. Phase one is essentially leisure facilities and accommodation, bringing the highest return on investment, while phase four is industrial and likely to be less rewarding. There was no guarantee the other three phases would ever come to fruition.
  The planning department recommended acceptance of the application but the council planning committee were conscious of the fact the public response had been dominated by objections at the loss of industrial harbour facilities. The councillors were doubtless also aware that refusing permission would achieve little, as on past experience the developer would almost certainly gain permission on appeal. Their cunning solution was to grant permission but on condition that phase four was developed in parallel with phase one, thus insuring some industrial development.
  It is probably safe to assume the developer is not enthusiastic about this outcome, particularly if they never intended to progress phase four. Since the decision, neither the developer, their agent or the architects have had much to say on the matter. If they intend to fulfill the planning obligation they will have to apply for full planning permission for phase four. There is no indication as yet the architects are undertaking the work necessary to make another application.
  The delay might be due to the considerable legal complications arising from the concept of parallel developments. The council say they are in the process of drawing up a complex legal agreement for which they will seek agreement from the developer. It doesn't take much imagination to foresee a number of potential problems. After all, planning permission is not an obligation to actually develop anything, just permission to do so. What happens if the developer sells off the land under phase four? Will the new owner have any development obligations related to phase one? If there is a new application for phase four, can it be a separate application and still be legally bound to phase one? If phases one and four are treated as one re-submitted planning application, the whole development will presumably again be subject to public opinion, and again run the risk of some unpredictable response from the planning committee.
  The developer has already incurred considerable expenditure getting to this stage, so there is an incentive to pursue the development. However, from their point of view, it is a highly unfavourable situation and there must be a temptation to abandon the project and sell off the whole site.

September 2019
St Cross Mill is Newport's heritage tragedy. A major historic building allowed to reach dilapidation in spite of its Grade II listing. A new owner gives some hope that work now started will bring the mill back to something resembling its former appearance.
Medina Yard
   In our news item of June 2017 we outlined the state of the structure and wondered whether it would ever be renovated. The council had avoided taking action to get the previous owner to meet their obligations under Grade II listing, in the hope that one day it will find an new owner with the dedication to spend a good deal of money renovating the property. On the face of it, this policy has finally paid off, but not before the property was allowed to reach an appalling state of disrepair.
  The application for Listed Building Consent has yet to be formally approved but permission has been given for the work to start, to avoid any further destabilisation. The present LBC only applies to repairs. Further applications will be made later in the year regarding other alterations associated with its future use. It remains to be seen whether the surviving elements of the mill machinery will feature in future alterations.
  Details in the LBC repairs application suggests the owner is prepared to do the necessary work to recover as much of the original structure as possible. In the case of the wings on either side of the main building, the retention will amount to very little as it is claimed their dilapidation was beyond repair, particularly the roofing. They will have to be largely rebuilt and that work is now underway (see above photo).
  The internal condition of the central building is reasonable, although some alterations have been made which are out of character. The external features of the building are going to require a good deal of repair and replacement. The windows are beyond saving, so it is planned to replace these with new windows in the same style. Features such as roof and gutters are also in need of attention.
  In truth, much of the original fabric will be lost but most residents will probably be satisfied that its general appearance will reflect its original character. It will remain as a reminder that a mill has existed on the same site from medieval times.