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About the Ryde project

The Ryde High Street Heritage Action Zone was one of 68 HSHAZ in England and was a 4 year programme of projects from 2020 – 2024, delivered as a partnership project between Historic England, Isle of Wight Council and Ryde Town Council.

The focus area was based on Character Area 2 of the town’s Conservation Area and the changes made within the HAZ were designed to be a springboard for the town.

The projects delivered provided evidence, advice and examples of how changes can be made to the high street. They will inspire similar projects for the future and enable additional funding to be invested in the town.

Key projects delivered / planned were:

  • Shopfront Design Guide
  • Shopfront Grants
  • Pedestrian Zone Improvements
  • Feasibility, Research Studies and Remedial Works at key historic buildings
  • ‘Waving The Flag’ Cultural Consortium

The High Streets Heritage Action Zone (HAZ) area focussed on, and around, Ryde High Street between the junctions with Garfield Road to the north and St John’s Road to the south. It is contained within Character Area 2 of the Ryde Conservation Area. It contains a mix of 18th and 19th century buildings with some 20th century infill and forms a crucial, commercial link between St Thomas Square at the top of Union Street and the upper High Street.

Ryde’s High Street, which is over half a mile in length, was originally the main street of the village of upper Ryde, before the two settlements of upper and lower Ryde were joined by Union Street in the early 19th century. The High Street was a major shopping street in the 19th century, servicing the surrounding residential areas with their many grand regency and Victorian villas and continued to flourish until the latter part of the 20th century when changes in shopping habits started to take their toll. Since then, it has borne the brunt of retail industry contraction in Ryde and the High Street is now largely characterised by a mix of charity shops, betting shops, discount outlets and empty voids.

The existing quality of the public realm interventions to enhance the pedestrian experience are extremely poor. While improvements to the streetscape have been achieved in St Thomas Square, Minghella Square and the Co-op forecourt, they remain piecemeal and the opportunity is largely missed for the High Street to add coherence to these and become a fully functioning, outdoor space providing a central locus for a variety of cultural and social uses.

The strong presence of the Arts & Entertainment sector provides a base on which the High Street HAZ programme can build to deliver culturally led regeneration in the town.

There are now some small but significant indications of an improving street culture evidenced by the establishment of some adjacent independent outlets including a baker, bookseller, antique shop, fish restaurant and a specialist supplier of textiles and fabrics. This retail trend should increase as a growing number of specialist providers of local produce and services, including local cheeses, meat, wines, street food, fruit and vegetables, plus artists, artisans, makers and designers all seek suitable retail space on the revitalised and improved High Street.

Ryde has much to contribute to these attractions and the High Street HAZ scheme will encourage visitors to venture into the town to experience the improved retail, food and drink, events and cultural offer and increase spend, extend the season and help to change visitor perceptions of the Isle of Wight.

The High Street and its immediate area, which is the focus of the Ryde High Street HAZ scheme, provides a major opportunity to instigate the successful regeneration of Ryde, linking the original historic core of the town to the more successful areas of Union Street and the Esplanade and providing a background for regenerating a number of landmark buildings including the Ryde Town/Hall at one end and the former convent at the other. As well as providing much needed pedestrian friendly, attractive outdoor space which the town currently lacks, it will also build on Ryde’s strengths as a cultural and creative centre, providing a location for cultural events such as the carnivals and other outdoor activities, space for creative businesses and exploit the growing demand for affordable first-time buyer, commuter properties in reach of the hovercraft and Fastcat facilities.

Design Guide

To help improve the standards of shopfront design and maintenance of building frontages in the town centre we have produced a new guidance document.

The Commercial Frontages Design Guide forms an important part of our shopfront improvement initiatives, setting a standard for what will be acceptable for grant-supported improvements. It was adopted as a supplementary planning document (SPD) in November 2022 and will ensure changes to frontages in the future mean the design and conservation standards our heritage town centre deserves.

More about the design guide here

Project Location