Cowes Harbour Commission has repeated its warnings to the Isle of Wight Council Planning Authority on the risks and threats to Cowes and Island marine industry and jobs if the Medina Yard planning application is approved.
Cowes Harbour Commission (CHC) and the Harbour Advisory Committee both continue to oppose the latest hybrid planning application by the Harrison Trust, for a mixed-use re-development of Medina Yard, for three fundamental and planning regulation reasons.
Firstly, CHC opposes the planning application because of its “change of use” for the Medina Yard site from marine employment. The Solent LEP, the key interface and lead for economic development in the Solent, identified Medina Yard as a Tier 1 waterfront marine site of prime importance for the marine sector in its strategic report of 2015.
Medina Yard provides the best, active marine employment site on the Medina with its all-tide, self-scouring and deep-water access with adjacent deep-water pools of over 5.5 metres in depth. The best access and greatest depth of water are situated on the northern part of the site. It is for this exact reason that the shipbuilder J.S. White built the Hammerhead Crane in this position in 1912. The Harrison Trust application proposes to use this precise area, with its best water access to the harbour, for their residential and mixed used development. CHC considers the Medina Yard planning application is in contravention of the Isle of Wight Council’s own draft Medina Area Action Plan.
Secondly, CHC is against this planning application because of the loss of marine industry and jobs that is likely to result. Aluminium shipbuilding and repair work is thriving in Cowes and there is a very real risk that this industry would be lost to the mainland. The Council’s alternative site at Kingston Marine Park is not fully consented and may not be financially deliverable and Venture Quays will be developed as part of the East Cowes regeneration.
Thirdly, professional advice is that this proposed Medina Yard development is not commercially viable in the current property market. Therefore, the Harrison Trust application appears to be contrary to the government’s National Planning Policy Framework in respect to deliverability. The Harbour Commissioners are concerned that if the Harrison Trust’s Medina Yard planning application is passed as currently proposed, it would risk sterilising the site for years to come.
CHC has highlighted the lack of any direct consultation or meeting by the Harrison Trust with the Harbour Authority on such a major proposal of a strategically important marine employment site. Any decision on this site and application will have a significant impact on the long-term prosperity of the harbour and serious knock-on effects for the Island’s marine businesses and jobs. Additionally, the Isle of Wight Council Planning Authority have not requested to meet or discuss this latest application with the Harbour Authority and the Planning Officer’s report opposes CHC comments and views with regard to water access and the importance of this site to marine industry and employment.
CHC has also expressed concern over the limited amount of time given to the Harbour Authority and Harbour Advisory Committee, currently 72 seconds at the Isle of Wight Council’s proposed planning hearing, scheduled for 27th March, despite CHC’s rejected requests to be given at least 3 minutes.
Cowes Harbour Commissioners are acutely aware and fully committed to maintaining strategically important marine sites suited to marine employment companies for the future prosperity of the harbour and for the all the Island stakeholders.
CHC has been actively working and continues to work with all parties, including the Government, Isle of Wight Council, Town Councils, and local marine businesses to find both interim and long-term sustainable solutions for the Island’s marine industry.
Currently, the three most important and inter-linked strategic harbour marine employment sites, the Harrison Trust Medina Yard site, Kingston Marine Park and Venture Quays, all have un-determined development applications and proposals under consideration. Cowes Harbour Commission is seriously concerned that if the current Medina Yard planning application is consented on the Harrison Trust application, and especially before actual and deliverable plans are agreed for alternative interim marine employment facilities, then there is a real risk that it will result in the death of ship building and repairs on the Island and the imminent loss of current marine employment companies and jobs to the mainland.