The Isle of Wight Society

Isle of Wight Society and East Cowes Heritage



The Isle of Wight Society

The Society was formed in 1969 by concerned residents in response to poor planning decisions, unsympathetic architectural design and mediocre construction of new developments. One of the first activities was to fight the Government over proposals to site a nuclear power station on the Solent coastline. 

The Isle of Wight Society is an amenity and conservation organisation, registered with the Charity Commission, number 276986, and affiliated to the national organisation Civic Voice.

Our Constitution states that the Objects are: 

1. To stimulate public interest in the Isle of Wight.

2. To promote high standards of planning and architecture in or effecting the Isle of Wight.

3. To secure the preservation, protection, development and improvement of features of historic or public interest in the Isle of Wight.

The Society achieves the objectives by:

Writing articles for publications and a monthly column in the IOW County Press.

Holding an annual conservation award competition in conjunction with the Royal Institute of British Architects.

Submitting comments on building developments to the IOW Council Planning Department.

Supporting the East Cowes Heritage Centre and other organisations dealing with planning issues.

East Cowes Heritage Centre

The Isle of Wight Society operates from the Heritage Centre in Clarence Road, East Cowes. The centre is run by volunteers. It is an archive and exhibition space for artifacts and records of the town and the Island. Entry is free but opening times vary. See here.

We now have a group on Facebook where you can keep up to date with news and events. Please join to contribute to items and discussions. Search for Isle of Wight Society.

Please note: You will need to be a member of Facebook to join and items posted may be edited or removed by the group admin.

What makes this Island special?

The character of the Island is basically rural with enough undulations to provide vistas of the countryside, the surrounding sea and the busy sheltered water of the Solent. 

The mainstay of the Island is tourism and this is bolstered by marine and engineering industries, some agriculture, forestry and fishing. As a popular retirement destination the care of the elderly is also a factor in the economy.

The geology, from chalk cliffs to sheltered valleys, provides a variety of soils that support a wide selection of flora and fauna 

The people who have lived on the Island have left a rich heritage that supports the history of a developing community that has been industrious, involved with civil and international wars and produced some word leading engineering achievements. 

Nowhere else in Britain can boast of human history ranging from pre-Neolithic times through to the present day.

Current concerns

The Island Council is permitting housing development in line with Government targets, it also has a PFI contract for the maintenance of the roads. The Island has fairly comprehensive medical services with strong links to Southampton and Portsmouth hospitals.

Housing developments, devolution of services and infrastructure support feature greatly in the present political climate. The Society, along with other bodies, are monitoring the issues and are voicing their concerns.


From the November edition of the South East News Bulletin:

We are really pleased to be able to bring you news from the 2016 Angel Awards where Josh Aitken-Dunkeld was awarded the Best Contribution to a Heritage Project by Young People Award for his work to save the Frank James Hospital on the Isle of Wight.

“I am proud to be representing the Isle of Wight’s heritage. This award is one of the best things that’s happened to me, it feels a bit like a dream. I love this building to bits and we’re one step closer to getting it saved.” Josh Aiken-Dunkeld

A big well done also to Jim and Sarah who just missed out on the Outstanding Contribution to Heritage award in what was a hotly contested category – You are still winners to us!

Norris Castle News

The playground of a young Queen Victoria has become the Isle of Wight’s first Grade I listed landscape after new research carried out in partnership with the new owners and the Isle of Wight Gardens Trust. In October Historic England upgraded the 143 acre landscape at Norris Castle from Grade II to Grade I in recognition of the exceptional nature of the park and garden which includes one of the grandest examples of a castellated walled garden anywhere in England.
During its history the landscape of Norris Castle has seen many a royal visitor. George IV visited in 1819 while Queen Victoria regularly stayed with her mother whilst a princess and continued to visit with the family later in life. Queen Victoria wrote about the site in her diaries, sketched the landscape and even considered buying Norris Castle but, finding it too expensive, bought neighbouring Osborne House instead. Later on Norris Castle frequently provided a residence for her grandson – Kaiser Wilhelm, and today there is still a canopy bath in the house called the ‘Kaiser’s Bath’.

The castle and landscape has also played a starring role in more modern times featuring as the setting for a Dr Who series The Sea Devils with Jon Pertwee in 1972.

The Society wishes to draw attention to “The Solent Deal”  This is the proposal that the Isle of Wight joins with Southampton, Portsmouth and SLEP (Solent Local  Enterprise Partnership) in the civic  management of the region. This is often referred to as Devolution. It affects business, transport and the care of people.  The public consultation finished on the 18th September.  Further details can be found on where you will be able to comment on the proposals.

Major planning developments for the 1. The Red Funnel Terminal and 2. Victoria Quays in West Cowes are also under consideration.

The East Cowes group of the Isle of Wight Society are concerned at the height of the landmark tower apartment blocks proposed next to the Barracks on the seafront and have written objections.

Point 1.The Isle of Wight Society feels both plans must be seen together as the Design and Access Statement and the Visual Appraisal consider both elements of the plans and the plans are very properly interlinked.  Therefore these same comments have been submitted for both Applications, TCP/31812/B and TCP/32737.The majority of the members were in favour of the proposals in general, especially the retention of the Columbine Shed and the Stilts building (Prom building), which in the 2007 plan would have been lost.

The proposals will furnish East Cowes with a variety of eating places with views of the harbour and Solent, hotel accommodation with stunning sea views, more business offices and retail outlets and more accommodation.  Walking along Castle road will be pleasanter with shop frontages rather than high walls, and Maresfield Road will have residential accommodation rather than factory walls.While, only the outline of mass, scale and access are to be considered in these present applications many details of design are given and great weight is given to this in the Visual Appraisal.Page 22 paragraph 5.6 of the Visual Appraisal states the two landmark towers “are not considered to be visually intrusive elements due to their high quality design and slim profile.” Therefore it would appear that the rough designs and palette of materials are presumed to be set.  If we are not to consider the designs shown, the conclusion of the Visual Appraisal is null and void.The views of the tower blocks are stated in the Visual Appraisal to be “beneficial due to the high standards of design proposed.”However we disagree as these applications are not for detailed design planning permission, and the application is only considering the mass and scale.  We do not have the exact design details to consider, therefore the developers  argument for the high towers is null and void.

Point 2.The members were sorry to see that the proposals were not for full planning permission and the exact design of the buildings is to come later.  There are detailed artists impressions of the buildings included and these could be misconstrued as being the finished design.  Hybrid plans are always difficult to assess, but we understand these plans simply show the scale of the development.  However in some elements details are given of finishes, such as on the Prom building and Pumphouse.We oppose this presentation as it is not clear if this is the final design.

Point 3.The group wish to object to the 31.5m “landmark” building.  This is proposed for the site where Henry VIII’s castle succumbed to blue slipper clay after less than seven years, but we presume that piling techniques have improved.  We would prefer that this landmark was shortened to a total of five storeys.  The tower block on the Albany site should also be reduced in height proportionally.  A building can be a landmark building without being oppressively tall.  Its style of architecture can make it a landmark.  The former is located a road’s width from the Locally Listed Barracks, and the latter a road’s width from the single storey Nationally Listed Coastguard Boathouses.  The Barracks, Albany Green, Pump house, Prom Building and Coastguard Station lie within the Conservation Area, a point which was not even seen mentioned within the Heritage Statement itself. The omission of the photographic view point shown from Albany Green looking east up Columbine and Old Roads and over the barracks supports our view that the planning application does not give a true impact of these landmark buildings. This view would show the the Maresfield Court tower  overpowering the scene.Page 74 of the Design and access statement places great emphasis on the fact that “building heights are kept to three storeys adjacent to existing dwellings, a height comparable to a three storey house.”  So what about the same proportion applying to the Coastguard Cottages and boat house, just a road’s width away? Seven storeys are proposed here next to a single storey.This supports our objection to these tall landmark buildings.

Point 3a. The proximity of the Albany building to the pavement will emphasise the excessive height.  It should be set back further from the road.  

Point 3b. Members object to the proposed use of stone filled gabions for the ground floor walls of the Albany buildings and Maresfield Court.  These are out of keeping with the character of the adjacent Conservation Area, are not sustainable and are only as strong as the wire mesh.

Point 4. The Barracks.  We are pleased to see that the windows, according to the designs on the plans, are to be restored to the original style.  Locally Listed and within the Conservation Area, any extension must be carefully planned.  We can see the need for an extension, but it should be in character with the original building.  For years the owners of the Wash house at the opposite end of the Conservation Area have been trying to add a small extension, which has been repeatedly refused by the Planning Committee and Appeal Committee.  The extension to the Barracks will be far more prominent.  It will have maximum impact when entering Columbine Road from Castle Street.    Detailed designs for this extension should be presented, as already given for the guard house and prom building, before the Council give the developers permission to extend the Barracks. 5.4.2 of the developers’ Heritage Statement states:  “The change to the Barracks will have some negative effect on the Heritage assets.”  This must be mitigated as far as possible by building in sympathetic materials and design.  

Point 5. The Guardhouse (Gelateria)  We are pleased to see that this building will be restored to its original design, albeit with a canopied extension.  We oppose a serving hatch in the west facing wall, and the railings appear to have disappeared in the drawing.  We trust this is simply for clarity, as elsewhere the railings are shown to remain. 

Point 6. The “Prom Building” (Stilts building.)   The members had no objection to the use of this as a café with glazing on the ground floor, nor the first floor as a bar.  We oppose exterior timber cladding to the first floor, as this can deteriorate and needs high maintenance.  Stained wood cladding is not in keeping with the style of this Conservation Area.  We would wish to see the very old stone wall remain exposed to view internally.  We note that the 2007 Code of Materials states that “timber cladding will present challenges in weathering.” 

Point 7. The Pump House.  We are confused by an application to alter a building that does not appear to belong to the developers.   If Southern Water/ the owners  are happy for the developers to alter the building, we object to the stained timber cladding proposed to cover the brickwork.  It is not in keeping with this Conservation Area.  Yellow brickwork is more in keeping with the character of the Conservation Area and should be more durable than timber cladding. 

Point 7a  The reuse of the south end of the building for the Marina Reception is a good idea.

Point 7b The necessity to use the north end as yet another vending point was queried.  

Point 7c  Members would like to see the seating reinstated on the seaward side of the building as originally built.  This would give the building a further public amenity.

Point 7d. Members object to the flat-roof proposal for the pump house, as this would be out of character in the Conservation area.  However, should the developers wish to pursue this alteration, it is suggested that the flat roof and whole building could become a feature if it was turned into a first floor viewing platform, from which to watch the considerable activity along the waterfront.  This would give a further public purpose to a necessary utilities building, with an attractive stairway leading to the first floor.  

Point 8. Public Toilets in the pump house.  The Society wish to see toilets reinstated in this area.  The closure of the pump house toilets, which had replaced others adjacent to the Columbine Shed and Prom Building, has long been a concern.  Frequently visitors stop and wish to make use of these closed facilities, and in some cases still do externally.  Should the developers receive change of use for the toilets then alternative public toilets, open at all reasonable hours, must be provided.  These could be incorporated into the yachtsmens’ facilities in the Columbine building, accessed from Columbine Road. 

Point 9. 106 monies could be earmarked for the public toilets, and also for improvements to the Esplanade in general, such as stabilising the landslip, tidying the esplanade and inserting more suitable retaining defences to prevent further clay slippage.  

Point 10. Road alterations  The members appreciate the insertion of a road to the north of the Barracks and the reduction in traffic south of the Barracks.  There should be no general vehicular access to Albany Green via Columbine Road in the interests of pedestrian safety to the west of the barracks. 

Point 10a We would like to see Castle Street / Maresfield Road as far as the new westward road, and the new westward road being the main priority route to the waterfront.

Point 10b ,The Old Road/ Maresfield Road/ Castle Street junction should be reconfigured in a way that indicates that Old Road is a minor road, not a through road.  

Point 11. Non Provision of the Maritime Heritage Experience.  The lack of this element of the approved 2007 outline plan is very disappointing.  It has been suggested that the Floating Bridge, when it is retired from service could be a focal point/Maritime Heritage visitor attraction, perhaps inshore in the Marina basin.  The Society would have appreciated the Classic Boat Museum Gallery continue to be provided with home within this overall development.

Point 12. The Drawing entitled Illustrative Proposed Context Elevations, while labelled for Illustrative purposes only, is entirely misleading and should be withdrawn from the plans.  It is used four times.  The developers appear to have different scales within the one drawing, and highlighted this by the removal of any trees.  Springhill House is shown as an enormous building on the skyline, when, as shown in the photograph at the front of “Setting” section, just a couple of gables can be seen if one knows where to look for them.  Dozens of caravans rear their roofs behind the houses in Cambridge Road, where they are actually invisible from this viewpoint.  Admirals Court at the top of Cambridge Road is expanded to an enormous block.  For anyone who does not know East Cowes and looks at this drawing the wrong impression would be received as to the character of the town.  The proposed Land mark buildings shrink, which is presumably the impression the illustrator wishes to give.

Point 13.  The group are very concerned that there is a lack of car-parking for visitors and staff at the restaurant, hotel and business offices in Columbine and the Barracks.

Point 14. Members liked the extension of the public green onto the apron north-west of the Columbine shed, removing the unsightly railings to give excellent harbour views.  Some concern was expressed that the whole of this public Albany Green could become gated at some future date for the use of Marina Users only. Restriction of the general public to the Albany Green must never be allowed to happen, as has happened elsewhere along East Cowes River bank to supposed public footpaths.  

Point 15. Lighting in this sensitive area should all be downward, to prevent glare skywards.  The water feature on the Albany Green should not have uplighters, nor should any landmark building.

Come and join us

Isle of Wight Society
East Cowes Heritage Centre, 8 Clarence Road
East Cowes, PO32 6EP

Tel: +44 (0) 1983 280310

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