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

October - December 2014

October 2014
Last month's presentation to Cowes residents from the architects brought good news for the crane's supporters. The previous plans had not extended the first phase of development as far south as the crane, leaving a degree of uncertainty surrounding the schedule for its potential renovation. In the most recent proposal, the crane is now included in phase one.
   Inclusion in phase one is important because the tenuous viability of the development could mean that subsequent phases prove financially problematic. The architects have frequently expressed concern that flood protection and other remedial work presents a considerable challenge to the scheme's profitability. Phase one, at the north end, contains a high residential element and will thus give the best return. They intend to apply for planning permission with a detailed application for phase one and an outline application for the balance of the site.
  Retention of the crane forms an essential feature of the proposed development. The plans have yet to provide an unambiguous commitment to renovation but it seems unlikely planning permission would be granted without the crane's renovation forming part of the application. There is still some dispute regarding the cost of renovation. The developer claims it would cost 2m, while the Hammerhead Crane Trust's own survey puts the figure at half that. The trust is currently exploring the potential of a grant to ease the burden on the developer.
  There is still the outstanding matter of the Urgent Works Notice. The council served this on the landowner, Harrison Trust, to implement immediate maintenance requirements. The process seems to have been delayed, with the Harrison Trust requesting a meeting on the subject. It's not clear what lies behind the meeting but the trust may have good reason to fend off the council recovering the cost through the courts, where there would have to be a ruling on ownership of the crane. The Harrison Trust have always denied ownership, so this would be a ruling they might wish to avoid.
Medina Yard Development The above sketch shows how the south east section of phase one might appear. The land would be raised to provide flood protection, with the exception of the semi-circle around the crane.

November 2014
The council is to enter into another round of substantial cuts for the 2015/6 budget. There will have to be a saving of a 13.5m. It seems few departments will escape some sort of cutback. An online survey has been established to gauge public opinion as to where priorities should lie.
  The council say they may have to consider cutting back some services to a statutory minimum and stopping others altogether. The survey divides the services under review into those which are entirely discretionary and those which are discretionary but with a level of statutory duties. Museums and Archaeology fall into the former category and the Record Office into the latter. For services which are entirely discretionary, the survey has the option of selecting 'funding stopped'.
  Museums have never been supported by government legislation and have generally been developed locally to serve civic pride. Such pride naturally comes under pressure in the face of severe cutbacks, although it tends to be stronger among the general public than within the average council cabinet. Museums play a significant part in the Island's range of 'grey day' tourist attractions. There are a number of excellent privately run Island museums but the council has technical issues with allowing them to display items from the county collection.
  It is a mystery why archaeology has been classified as non-statutory. What remains of our archaeology unit seems to almost exclusively deal with matters arising out of the planning process, both in maintaining the Historic Environment Record and advising on the archaeological implications within planning applications. These functions are required as part of an application's Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). The EIA is a statutory obligation on planning departments under the Town and Country Planning Regulations 2011. It's difficult to see how the council could fulfil its EIA duties without an archaeological input.
 Examining the Record Office for potential cuts has a certain irony. There is currently a capital contingency of 3.5m for a new record office/heritage centre. Unsurprisingly, the formalisation of this expenditure has been regularly put back. It is now thought it will be reviewed in December. It will be difficult for councillors to approve this in the current climate. The cuts couldn't have come at a worse time for the Record Office.
 Whatever remains of overall department structures, labour reductions will be seen as an option. Results of the survey will only act as a loose guide to council decisions but it is important that supporters of local heritage make their views known. The online survey is here.

December 2014
Falling membership had brought the IW Industrial Archaeology Society (IWIAS) to the point where they had to disband. The IW Natural History and Archaeological Society (IWNHAS) came to the rescue and have now incorporated industrial archaeology within their own organisation.
  IWIAS was established in 1996, at a time when a number of similar amateur organisations had been set up throughout the country. They arose from a feeling industrial archaeology was being neglected by the national authorities. The society soon attracted a healthy membership and established a museum at Clamerkin. Their work has contributed to the recording and protection of a number of industrial sites, including the hammerhead crane. Their members also carried out research into past industrial operations and the accompanying social history. In their time, IWIAS have probably been the Island's major contributor to post-medieval research.
  A number of Island-wide associations have seen membership decline in recent years, while more local societies seem to have fared better. IWNHAS became aware of IWIAS's plight and, on investigation, felt the hardcore of expertise that remained in the society was worth retaining. Following talks between the two societies, the IWNHAS council voted unanimously to incorporate the industrial archaeology group within their own organisation. The industrial archaeology section will have its own leaders who will prepare their own programme for inclusion in the society's programme and they will have representation on the society's council.
  IWNHAS is the Island's most prestigious society. Since its foundation in 1919, their archaeological projects and historical studies have created a huge body of work, and they remain highly active across all their disciplines. The industrial archaeology section will be separate from the existing archaeology group and will add a useful post-medieval element to the society's interests.
 With impending council cuts, and further cuts promised in the next parliament, it's generally assumed local authorities will end up with little more than a skeleton heritage service. The job of facilitating local history will increasingly fall on expertise outside the council. The council already recognise the importance of encouraging local organisations but some feel there is a need for a new generation to become active within them.