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Cllr Diana Conyers, Ryde Town Council

The HAZ project is a tribute to Ryde

“I’m a relative newcomer to the Isle of Wight. When I decided to move to the Island five and a half years ago, I chose Ryde partly because of the easy access to the mainland but also because it appeared to be a really lively sort of place. I’ve never regretted moving here.

“As chairman of the Town Council planning committee, I am looking at the plans for the High Street area from two perspectives, from the point of view of a councillor and a resident.

“As a resident, I have to say it has sadly seen some deterioration over the past five years. We have seen the closure of some of the shops (although our High Street has fared better than many other places) and road surfaces have fallen into disrepair.

“From a planning point of view, I have been involved with the Ryde High Street Heritage Action Zone (HAZ) pedestrianisation scheme, which has at last materialised. There have been a few teething problems, with some traffic still entering the area illegally, but we are working on that. Allowing people to walk about freely without cars will help us to transform the area.

“Ryde’s HAZ project is a tribute to the town’s wonderful architecture. Our heritage will help us to secure a great future for the town. Personally I am particularly concerned about the old Town Hall. The Town Council is looking at ways of bringing it back into community use and I am very pleased that Historic England is helping us find ways of doing this.

“In terms of the High Street, our challenge is how we transform it and encourage a creative use of the buildings. The Covid pandemic has accelerated the closure of stores. Some of the empty premises are really large and we have to decide how we can best use that space.

“It would be great to see if we can encourage short-term use of premises and get more artists in the High Street. We have a great deal of artistic talent in the town. This is evident from the annual Open House events, when you can visit artists in their studios.

“One area that I think has great potential is the alleyways, short cut-throughs and squares that we have. I used to live in the Brighton area and they remind me of the Brighton Lanes. It would be great to see more being made of them.

“Ultimately I would love to see the High Street become a vibrant place with lots of activities. I also lived for some time in the Mediterranean. I love the way of life there – sitting outside, enjoying the ambience, having an al fresco meal. Of course, we don’t have the advantage of a Mediterranean climate, but we can still do something along those lines.

“And maybe we could even have a Dotto train to help visitors to get around the town and see everything that we have on offer! That’s what I hope we can create in Ryde.”