The recent news that the old Packs building on Cross Street and top of Union Street has received investment of £2 Million plus from the Arts Council to convert to an arts centre/venue, is fantastic. It is the latest in a range of initiatives and projects inspired/supported by Ryde Town Council and local residents/organisations.
I currently have covid and this is the reflection of the times we live in and how world events overshadow what we do such as the war in Ukraine. As I am isolating, I have started to reflect on how Ryde is developing and what has been achieved since I became Mayor along with so many in the Town. I see through social media the amazing response by residents who are registering their homes for Ukrainian refugees and this demonstrates the amazing heart within our Town and on the Island and a sense of community solidarity towards human kindness. I really love Ryde. It is a special place.
It is just over two years ago when I faced a no confidence vote and nearly three years since I was elected Mayor of Ryde. The community support on the night of the vote was amazing. In the Autumn of 2019, a group of Ryde Town Councillors pushed for reforms and innovative approaches to transform the Town. This resulted in staff restructure and a no confidence vote in this group (including myself as Mayor), defeating it with community support and moving forward. In the March 2022, we were hit by the pandemic and the new Ryde Team hit the ground running. Not only, supporting 100s if not 1000s of residents but also focusing on growth and development. In 2021, the elections saw a wave of new Councillors with strong community support/vote joining members of the original group under the banner of Our Ryde to continue the direction set. RTC has now got in place all its qualifications and certificates to be what is termed a super Town Council so it is able to borrow, invest and develop services.
I thought it would be good to list the projects/initiatives that have been happening over the past two years and what is to come in 2022/23 as follows:
- Transformation – Ryde Town Council has transformed into a much more open, innovative and delivery focused organisation with staff restructure and new appointments such as a business development manager and beach operations team. A Ryde Place Plan (PowerPoint Presentation (rydetowncouncil.gov.uk)) was approved and for the first time a Ryde Corporate (Ryde Town Council). The Town has a new logo and image. A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) is being developed with IW Council and most recently a MOU with Portsmouth University. The Council’s active partnership approach is the key to development of the Town.
- Investment – My calculation is since 2019, Ryde has seen and seeing investment of over £15Million plus and with the recent £2M+ from Arts Council into Pack’s building this will be heading to £20M in the next 12 months. This investment and transformation will give the private sector confidence to invest in the Town. We are already seeing new shops, businesses, expansion of existing businesses and community enterprises such as Shademakers, Pickle & Dill (photo above) and Monkton Arts Centre and Café. This all creates an atmosphere of enthusiasm, creativity, hope, and opportunity. Ryde Town Council has started to borrow at low interest rates to invest in the Town such as Ryde Harbour. This in turn enables match funding to come in from other sources.
- Network Ryde – RTC has invested and developed a bespoke youth service in the Town with a range of activities including a youth allotment. During the last two years of Covid19 pandemic, the service continued to operate and developed innovative virtual services. We need to invest in our young people as they are our future.
- St. Thomas’ Church (Town Centre) – RTC bought the church so Network Ryde can develop and grow as a youth centre in the heart of the Town. Currently, the Church is being renovated, repaired, and redesigned internally and should be opened in Autumn of 2022 or early 2023. Network Ryde continues activities from 147, High Street. There is now further investment into the gardens (old church yard) to make this a peace garden.
- Creating Youth Jobs – Network Ryde/RTC launched a Kick-Start young person’s employment scheme with Government funding which has created 20 plus jobs for local young people. A good example was a young man who has been trained by Grace’s Bakery and now has a full-time job.
- Ryde Historic Action Zone – This partnership between RTC, IWC, Historic England, and local Ryde organisations is seeing major investment into the High Street and surrounding Town Centre area. This includes grants for buildings and shops, redesign of High Street with a café culture and a Town Centre experience. A Ryde HAZ project manager was appointed and a range of projects initiated with feasibility studies with Packs building and Shademakers being the latest to gain the go ahead with investment alongside St. Thomas’s Church. Ryde Town Hall, St. Mary’s Convent, and Aspire Community HUB, all have plans, drawings, and seeking investment. It takes times but the journeys of these buildings have started.
- Saving and Renovating Ryde’s Heritage and Historic Buildings – RTC has stepped up to the plate and bought buildings such as St. Thomas’s Church and Vectis Hall as a clear message to other investors to start investing in the Town. RTC had no assets and relies on renting its premises. By purchasing buildings and moving services and operations to these buildings will in the long-term make Ryde TC financially stronger and more sustainable. Vectis Hall has support from Architectural Heritage Fund and appointed architects to draw up plans for RTC to move its offices/operations there with community facilities. RTC have joined up with IWC, Natural Enterprise charity and Monkton Arts, in developing a sustainable plan for Appley Tower and currently NE (who have received already grants to undertake feasibility studies and plans from Architectural Heritage Fund) are applying for £250K+plus funding alongside agreed grants of £40K each from RTC and IWC.
- Ryde Harbour and Beach Operations (Deck Chairs back on Ryde Beaches) – From 1st April, RTC will takeover the ownership and management of Ryde Harbour (renaming it Ryde Marina) and Eastern Gardens. In 2021, RTC invested in and established a Beach operation and put beach equipment including deck chairs back on Ryde beaches. In 2022, there is investment into the Ryde Marina so it develops and grow. This is an amazing achievement when you go back to 2018 and Ryde TC objected to IW Council plans to sell the harbour to a dredging company. It demonstrates how RTC has moved from a minor player to the unitary authority, IW Council, to not only an equal partner but a lead partner. RTC is more and more in the driving seat and leading the way.
- Esplanade, Interchange, and Banners – The Ryde Place Plan has 4 identified social enterprise action zones and these are Nicholson Road (Ryde South-East), Monkton area, Town Centre (Ryde HAZ) and Esplanade. IW Council has appointed a consultant to bring all the projects along the Esplanade together including Interchange, Ryde Skate Park, Waterside, Harbour, Eastern and Western Gardens and Appley Tower, so there is a a joined up approach in creating an Esplanade experience. Local residents and organisations are putting their own initiatives to make walking down the Esplanade a must do activity such as Monkton Arts and the Banners initiative where local artists have designed colourful banners with local business sponsorship to bring joy along seafront.
- Events, Visitors and Economic Growth – Ryde has a history of events from April to October and sadly these events were reduced greatly and many cancelled over last two years due to Covid19 but 2022 will see now only the established events coming back bigger and better, but new events such as the start of the final leg of the biggest cycling event in UK, the Tour de Britain. The Mardi Gras, Ryde Carnival, IW Pride, Classic Cars, Scooter Rally, Rowing Regatta, IW Harp Festival and much more will not only bring joy but visitors/tourists pouring money into the Ryde economy. RTC has a lead marketing role and the RTC business development manager is developing a Ryde marketing strategy.
- Community Response, Engagement and Community Connector – During Covid19, RTC teamed up with Ryde’s leading community/voluntary organisations such as Ryde Aspire, Network Ryde, DWP (Job Centre), social landlords such as Sovereign Housing, Barnardo’s (Ryde Family Centre), CAB and others to form Ryde Community Response Forum which met regularly to make sure Ryde residents had all the support they needed over the last 2 years. RTC funds a Community Connector programme with Ryde Aspire. This support has enabled Ryde Aspire to grow its infrastructure and recently resulted Aspire teaming up with other community hubs across the Island and successfully lead and win a major contract to deliver the Island-wide Living Well and Community Navigator scheme. RTC and Aspire are now looking at how the Community Connector role can be developed into community development across the Town.
- Growth of Community Action and Organisation – RTC has an active community and marketing grant fund which has over the last few years enabled new and existing community projects to develop and grow and also access other funds. During Covid19, this solid support from RTC enable important community facilities such as Waterside to not only survive but grow and sustain. New projects such as Men-Only and Veteran’s Café/HUB have sprung up to support those isolated and experiencing depression and at high risk of suicide. The RTC policy has to support resident action through being a facilitating, enabling and encouraging council.
- Green Space and Biosphere – Ryde has a deficit of green space and RTC is committed to the Island’s UNESCO Biosphere status in making Ryde greener. RTC has actively worked with Natural Enterprise in securing the future of existing green space such as St. John’s Park/Wood and getting new green space such as Rosemary Fields during lockdown. RTC has established a green Ryde group to develop this further. There was recently an Appley Park stakeholders meetings to look at the long-term future of this important park and beach.
- Honouring those who make our Town great – RTC last year established an Annual Honours event to thank and celebrate all the local residents and organisations who supported others during Covid19. In 2022, during Queen’s Jubilee) there will a further event including honouring 7 local residents born before 1952 (one for each decade of the Queen’s reign – Ryde’s magnificent 7) who have contributing to the growth of the Town. There will be awards for those born after 1952 as well.
The above doesn’t include everything but it sends a message of action which is my motto as a Councillor, “Taking Action”. There is a Town Annual Meeting and a two-day Forward Ryde event on the 13/14th May 2022 where there will be presentations and exhibitions celebrating and showcasing all projects, innovations, and developments in the Town. I am proud to be part of this movement.
I wish to thank all the RTC staff team, councillors, those at IW Council who have supported this direction of travel, Ryde/IW organisations (private, voluntary and public), all funders/investors in believing in the Town, and most importantly Ryde residents and community for making all the above happen as without you it would have not been possible. I love Ryde!