Projects: The Bay Coastal Community Team

Yes, Sandown Bay is Brilliant!  Here’s a bit of background on why… and on our work as the Bay Coastal Community Team….

The five square and sunny miles of eastern Isle of Wight, encompassing Luccombe, Shanklin, Lake, Sandown, Yaverland and Culver, known simply as ‘The Bay’, is one of the Island’s three big urban centres and the core of the Island’s tourism industry. Here’s a quick factfile and gazetteer:

22,500 residents, half a million annual visitors, three towns, two villages, one of the longest sandy beaches in the UK; 44 shipwrecks, 25 churches, 50 listed buildings; 900 ft of pier, 2 deserted medieval villages, stone age axes and arrowheads, 1000 Roman coins, 4 historic gardens; 8 forts, a zoo, Pterodactyls in 100ft cliffs; a castle lost in the sea, a petrified forest, conger eels and seahorses, Peregrine falcons and Ravens; and 31 pubs!

It is an amazing place, but in common with so many English resorts, it has faced tough times. Fragile seasonal economies, demographic stresses and lack of investment are familiar themes and that’s precisely why The Bay has enthusiastically joined the club of Coastal Community Teams (CCTs) working for change, regeneration and a better future. There are over 146 CCTs around the country take a look at http://www.coastalcommunities.co.uk. Arc as lead partner is helping to head up the CCT’s programme, Shaping the Bay.

Here in The Bay, the CCT’s focus is on bringing to life that packed local content, the natural and social histories, the celebration of nationally important landscapes and special wildlife, the public spaces, parks, gardens, 5 miles of beach and 15 square miles of marine protected area, the hidden stories of the three towns, the networks of places and spaces that are free for everyone and all the time. These are raw materials for revitalisation and regeneration that are already here, we just need to set them to work to stimulate enterprise and employment, health and wellbeing and a sustainable lift in the fortunes of The Bay community.

Back in 2014 and in the space of just a few months, over 4000 people participated in our Shaping the Bay events, meetings, on-line and drop-in consultations, school projects and reminiscence groups, adding their thoughts and ideas to the CCT plan for The Bay. The result is a list of 29 projects that fix and renew public realm and green infrastructure, make places of interest more accessible for all ages, and celebrate and expand the things that are already great!

There’s ambition in there too, we have begun to create a marine research centre based on Artecology, new materials and designs for a more biodiverse coastal infrastructure; a sharing economy centre (the Imagination Refinery) trading incubator space for time spent on community projects in The Bay; a 5 mile coastal garden (The Lost Duver), new nature trail the Willow Walk and High Street micro-brewery and mini-gallery/museum Boojum & Snark; still on the consultation wish-list are sea safaris and floating playparks…

There’s much to do, and our not-for-profit organisation, The Common Space, was set up to search out support for the task ahead and get things moving. As of April 2020, over £500,000 has been raised for Bay projects by our volunteer team.  Already work has begun on restoring historic buildings, developing research and funding links with universities, and supporting local projects. A whole calendar of free Bay events, Discovery Bay, was created to reveal the phenomenal natural resource of the Bay, there year-round for Islanders and visitors It’s now into its 6th year (Covid19 aside!) and combined with science and arts Sandown Spectacular Hullabaloo, has engaged tens of thousands of people with the natural, cultural and social world of this very special place.

Thanks in part to the work of the CCT, The Bay won an award, Britain’s Best Beach last year. Our team were also involved in the UNESCO Biosphere designation for the Isle of Wight on June 19th 2019… and so now we’re the Bay CCT in a Biosphere no less!

Key points for you…

  • Investment brought to Sandown from The Common Space, Arc and partners since 2016 = £500,000, funding:
    • historic building restoration including PLUTO Pavilion, Sandown Battery
    • new public footpaths
    • new free public facilities and attractions (including the new High Street Brewery)
    • annual programme of free public events, Discovery Bay, publicised through Visit Isle of Wight including of course Hullabaloo. This work led directly to the Bay’s BBC Countryfile Best Beach Award 2019 and to this year’s nomination for Best UK Destination 2020 as well as Visit Isle of Wight’s commission of the Slow Guide to the Bay.
  • Annual visitors to Browns for Discovery Bay, Hullabaloo, golf and café, to Battery Gardens for The Christmas Garden, and all other free Sandown walks and events we’re involved in: 55,000.
  • Business and Employment: from empty buildings and skeleton golf staff in 2013 to 20 local jobs and 6 small businesses based here and the formation of an informal incubator space.
  • Universities brought to Sandown, including engagement with local schools: 8 (long-term research collaborations with Glasgow, Bournemouth, Portsmouth and Oxford).
  • Sandown Green Towns & The Common Space’s collaboration secured the town’s nomination for Britain in Bloom 2020.
  • Currently at the centre of the next Heritage Lottery Landscape Partnership bid to bring £1.5M to Sandown and the wider Bay in 2021.
  • From near-dereliction to now, our own HQ, Browns is a thriving and busy hub, of business, community, tourism, research and support to the rest of the town and has offered a mix of free and paid-for attractions, employment space, wildlife encounter, research and science, year-round music and arts venue, war and peace heritage too.  We’ve also encouraged activity building around better and more productive use of public space to support health and education outcomes, including work here with young carers, probation teams, housing associations all actively using this site now, by opening up and using forgotten and abandoned parts of the public estate in order to provide free and local activity and even respite, for people in need of some help and support.

So here’s to the future of this fantastic place, The Bay, its people and its places. Hip Hip…….

Contact Arc to find out more about Shaping Better Places… and you can find out more and keep in touch here:

Shaping The Bay

The Common Space

Sandown Bay Is Brilliant

For more information on the Great British Coast, visit www.thegreatbritishcoast.co.uk.