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Robert Kwolek, Senior Architectural Designer at Create Streets.

Designs for Shopfronts

Designs on the future of Ryde High Street – Robert Kwolek, Senior Architectural Designer at Create Streets.

“We have been asked by Isle of Wight Council to create a Shopfront Design Guide for the Ryde Heritage Action Zone and as part of that work, we have undertaken community engagement in the form of interviews with stakeholders including shopkeepers, local businesses and council planners.

“In total we have completed 31 interviews, asking people about their favourite and least favourite shop fronts as well as preferences for materials and colours etc.

“We created an interactive map that allows anyone to pinpoint individual places and buildings for comment – and we’ve had hundreds of responses so far.

“We recently held a stakeholder workshop where we reported back on the interviews and community engagement so far.

“One of the things that is so encouraging with this project is the clear enthusiasm for making something happen. Everyone is keen to work together to make a better place.

“The benefits for Ryde High Street is that it is ideally suited for independent shops and the buildings, dating back to Victorian times, have good structures – you can easily imagine recreating Victorian style shop fronts where appropriate and well-designed contemporary shopfronts on post-war buildings.

“The Shop Front Design Guide will be largely complete by the end of May 2021 and then reviewed by Isle of Wight Council and Historic England before being published for consultation.

“It is anticipated that grants for shopkeepers will be available by the end of 2021.There is a four year timeline and the funding needs to be allocated within that time frame.

“Historic England set very high standards but funding is limited, so as part of the project we may be looking at whether there is an obvious cluster which could become an example of what can be achieved.

“The hope is that the shops with improved shop fronts will see increased sales and that will encourage other landlords and shopkeepers to see the benefits of investing in their premises

“The legacy will be the Design Guide – when it becomes policy, anybody wanting to renovate a shop front will have to refer to the guide.

“The desire is for the High Street to become a destination in its own right – a place you want to visit. By improving outdoor seating and encouraging a café culture, you can create a place that is not just about retail but leisure too.

“There are lots of elements to the project and improvements to the public realm will help to visibly improve the area while we wait for other longer term improvements.

“There is a real optimism around the future of Ryde High Street and an enthusiasm for exploring short-term leases and pop-ups.

“One of the issues that came across during our interviews was the desire for rents to be kept low so businesses could test their model.

“We were told that as a popular tourist destination, rents for shops tend to be out of kilter for local business needs.

“Unattractive shop fronts is very much the tip of the iceberg but we have been really impressed by the enthusiasm people have for the project and their willingness to bounce ideas around with the aim of making Ryde a better place for everyone to enjoy.”