I won’t lie, last week’s event at Ryde Castle was a tough gig. It’s daunting standing up in front of over 140 people who are so passionate about their seafront and don’t like the options we’ve looked at so far! But I came away with a much deeper understanding of what changes residents want and don’t want on Ryde esplanade – and hopefully we’ve got a wider group of people who want to stay involved.
It’s never easy to start talking about making big changes to where we live. There will be some people who are excited about change and support sustainable growth and there will be others who are concerned at what growth and development might mean. At the same time part of my job is to think about how best to use council land and buildings to generate income to help pay for services we all need. This is something we grapple with daily back at Regen Head Quarters (County Hall).
Over the past week, we have been involved in Ryde events to discuss what we’ve done to date on working out whether we can get enough value from development to deliver a better esplanade and transport interchange in Ryde. And goodness, there is nothing like showing some controversial development options for getting people to come along and let us know their views. We know we haven’t got the options right yet. Nothing is stacking up financially and the majority of those who came along wouldn’t support any of the options but it was fantastic to have so many people engage in the early conversations.
Part of this discussion was to tell people about the approach we have been taking. It’s very easy to be an armchair developer. We’ve all watched the TV programmes and it’s seemingly a simple job getting the right scheme, finding the investment and building it. But actually, those of us working for the council owe you more than that. We owe it to you to make sure that when the council makes a decision to do some development, it uses its resources effectively. We also must make sure that the development will be sustainable and will deliver what people want for the local area as well as for the whole Island. That’s why we do the background feasibility work and look at how much development a site can or should take. We look at what local ambitions for a place are – maybe more jobs, better green space, an improved harbour, or affordable housing – and try to find ways of making these happen. Basically, we look at options and then we come and talk to you. Sometimes, we hit upon an option that looks like it stacks up financially and will also meet with what local people say they want (Nicholson Road being a good example) and sometimes we really struggle to find the right option – as has happened with Ryde esplanade so far.
I hope those who came to the meetings left with a better understanding of what we want to do in terms of regeneration and a bit more confidence that we are trying our utmost to ensure we engage meaningfully with as many people as we can – on all the projects we are working on!