Sort out Sandown says government task force to Isle of Wight Council

Picture by Google Maps.
Picture by Google Maps.

A GOVERNMENT task force has said there is a lack of strong vision preventing the transformation of Sandown High Street.

It has also slammed the Isle of Wight Council's policy for dealing with dilapidated heritage buildings in the town and said a more 'radical' plan was needed to address the problem.

Following the deterioration of the town centre in recent years, Sandown was chosen by the Isle of Wight Council, as a specific area of challenge, that would benefit from the support of the High Street Task Force (HSTF).

The aim of the task force is to help local leaders make the best decisions about high streets and for their communities.

Government officials visited the town in July to 'diagnose' the main problems that, if were not resolved now, would make it difficult for Sandown to change.

In a report, presented at Sandown Town Council's meeting earlier this week, officers said they could see there was a lot going for the town including the excellent beach, popular pier, strong community spirit and some 'green shoots of recovery' on the High Street from independently-owned businesses.

However, they also identified a 'number of weaknesses', and said the ways in which the community is empowered to help develop and deliver the vision of the town 'seemed to be limited'.

They believed the Isle of Wight Council should improve its partnerships and communications with businesses and the community to enable a better-quality vision to be developed that can inform future plans.

The "single most significant issue", government officials highlighted, was the presence of multiple dilapidated heritage buildings on the Esplanade and Culver Parade.

The obstacles the council faces were said to not be well-understood by visitors or residents so they were left with an "overwhelming impression of neglect".

The council's current strategy — which focuses on enforcing Section 215 notices and compels landlords to improve the condition of their buildings — was said to be unlikely to remedy the situation in the long-term.

The HSTF will provide a workshop for the Isle of Wight Council to receive further expert support in managing and repurposing dilapidated buildings after officers said a more radical plan was needed to address the problem.

To improve the High Street, officials recommended a strategy of 'repositioning', to refresh the council's approach to place leadership; getting to know the town as well as using relevant data and information to develop a collaborative, inspiring vision that achieves change.

The Isle of Wight Council has been contacted for a comment.