Riding the tide of opportunity

Aaron Wheeldon, Graduate Trainee,
Isle of Wight Council

By Aaron Wheeldon, Graduate Trainee, 
Isle of Wight Council.

I was born and raised on this island twenty-one years ago, having attended Somerton Middle and Cowes High School in a bygone era of education. I continued at Cowes as it transitioned into the current Cowes Enterprise College where I studied my A-Levels and became particularly interested in dystopian literature. Eventually, as a result of this growing interest in politics, I chose to study International Relations at the University of Southampton. I graduated with a Bachelor of Science three years later and it came time to pursue a career in the busy (and incredibly competitive) graduate market. I never saw my future on the island – throughout my childhood, it never struck me as an environment for opportunity. However, here I am, as the tide of opportunity turns for the island.

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Shaping the future of the Island

Isle of Wight Council Logo

By Gino Wooldridge,
Graduate Trainee,
Isle of Wight Council.

I have just turned 27 and have always been an Islander, I attended Northwood Primary, Somerton Middle and Cowes High School. After my education on the Island, which focussed on a technical and logical curriculum including ICT and business studies, I went to the University of Southampton to further my interest and skills with a degree in Management (BSc).

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Two years of regeneration

Reniera O'Donnell

By Reniera O’Donnell, assistant director of regeneration, Isle of Wight Council.

It’s been two years since the Council made the brave decision to establish a regeneration team. It was daunting for me; coming in to help create a new department and kick start a programme that was tasked with plugging the big black (or is that red?) money hole. So I am indulging in a bit of a reflection on where we have gotten to thus far.

For me, the biggest change has been the rising enthusiasm both locally and from future investors and partners about the Island. The number of bids we got for taking forward the Newport Harbour masterplan was an indication that the wider development world is interested in our little Island. As well as this house prices in Ryde over the past year have seen highest rise in the country! Add to this the expansion of MHI Vestas with hundreds of new jobs; the investment going in to some of our hotels (the Priory Bay as an example); and the success of smaller businesses like Wyatt & Jack and Russell Ince’s Christmas Imaginarium and you start to see that the things are definitely shifting.

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Victoria regenerated

By Reniera O’Donnell, assistant director of regeneration, Isle of Wight Council.

Reniera ODonnellNearly twenty years ago I arrived in the UK. My first foray into the world of local government was at Westminster City Council. You might not know the area, but  Westminster City Hall is down Victoria Street which, back then, was uninspiring and full of rather rubbish shops and drab offices. House of Fraser (or Army and Navy as it was then known) was about the only ‘brand’ on the strip.

Today, for the first time in a few years, I arrived once again at Victoria Station to attend a meeting at the Local Government Association. So I walked down Victoria Street, passing old haunts and trying to remember what the place looked like back then. Continue reading

We have a (draft) strategy!

By Reniera O’Donnell, assistant director of regeneration, Isle of Wight Council.

Reniera ODonnellLast week we held our second annual regeneration conference. We opted for a smaller venue this year and chose to hold it at Lakeside in Wootton. To our utter amazement it was completely booked out about 2 weeks in advance and we even ran a waiting list on the day. This is all great news. Word is getting out that stuff is happening and people want to know about it and get involved.

The main objective of the event was to launch our draft regeneration strategy. Yes, we have finally put into one document the aims, objectives and ambitions for the programme and now need people to let us know what they think. I am almost 100 per cent  certain, we haven’t gotten it all right yet! So far, it has been positively received. In the words of ‘onthewight’ – “It’s a long read, but comprehensive and worth working your way through if you have an interest in any regeneration plans”. The strategy is available online through our website  where you can also download a PDF copy. Please let us know what you think and stay engaged! Continue reading

A festival for the environment?

By Reniera O’Donnell, assistant director of regeneration, Isle of Wight Council.

Reniera ODonnellWhat an amazing festival weekend the Island had! Showcased in all its sunny glory, the Isle of Wight gave the festival-goers a real treat. This was my second festival and it really was great fun. It got me thinking though. There we were, enjoying some fantastic music and great atmosphere, whilst watching the ground get more and more littered with plastic and rubbish. People were letting balloons fly free, and any wildlife stood no chance of surviving the footfall of tens of thousands of happy humans. The fact that I was also a keynote speaker at the Environment conference on Tuesday made the realities of the environmental impact of us humans even more stark. Continue reading

How the Island’s young people are getting involved

By Reniera O’Donnell, assistant director of regeneration, Isle of Wight Council. 

One of the best aspects of my job is that I get to work with some of our amazing young people on the Island. Let’s be honest, it’s been a few years (one or two really!) since I was a teenager and today’s young people find themselves in a very different world to the one I grew up in so, I find it quite hard to find common ground and work out how to appear even remotely cool (I don’t) when spending time with them. Continue reading

Ryde tells us

Reniera ODonnell headshot 800pxI 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. Continue reading