We want people to fall back in love with Newport
Julie Jones-Evans, has been an Isle of Wight Councillor since 2009 and is the cabinet member with responsibility for Regeneration, Business Development and Tourism. She is a passionate advocate for Newport.
“When I was a teenager coming to Newport with your mates to go shopping was an event and something you looked forward to – that’s the feeling we want to recapture.
“We want people to fall back in love with Newport. There is a narrative that it’s just charity shops and cafes and that’s just not true. We’ve got some wonderful independent shops in places like Holyrood Street.
“And by comparison with other places the number of empty shops isn’t that bad and there is pent up demand.
“It would be great to get some big fish back in town to take on some of the larger units but we are also exploring other ways those spaces can be brought back to life.
“When I was on a recent Local Government Association training course I met an organisation called Clicks and Mortar and we are talking to them about how we can help people who have set up businesses online to make the transition to a retail setting with more permanent pop-ups.
“Newport and Carisbrooke Community Council has shown that it believes in Newport and has bought 64, High Street where the Edinburgh Woollen Mill used to be.
“Our staff will move in upstairs and we are planning to create a flexible space where we can have our meetings, events, historical displays and retail space at street level with incubator units allowing small businesses to operate in an area with high footfall.
“For hundreds of years members of my family have been trading in Newport, my grandfather was a baker and my Mum has a shop called Dragonfly in Nodehill.
“From 2017 when Isle of Wight Council got its regeneration department I have been involved and pressing for a plan for the county town.
“With Shaping Newport we were able to capture a picture of how people feel about Newport and it became really clear that people really care about the heritage.
“We have 350 listed buildings and monuments in Newport and an intact mediaeval street layout but it’s clear that traffic is a major issue.
“Both Ryde and Newport were lucky enough to be chosen as Heritage Action Zones (HAZ) by Historic England and through the lockdowns and recent challenges, the momentum of each town has helped the other.
“The HAZ gives us an opportunity to go back to Newport’s roots and I’m hoping the People First Zone is something that everyone can get behind. The proposals to have wider pavements and greater access will be a tangible benefit that has come from the HAZ and with our footfall tracking ability, we can evidence the change.
“We are also looking at car parking and creating a pilot one hour free parking in short stay car parks.
“Ultimately we want to make it more pleasant to be in Newport. We have got wonderful theatres and live music as well as fabulous restaurants like Thompsons – and we want people to be able to enjoy the experience of being in Newport.”