On October 27, 2021, the Isle of Wight, UK celebrated the receipt of almost £6 million ($8 million USD) of government funding to help regenerate the city of East Cowes.
The funding—granted as part of the government’s Levelling Up Fundwill see £5.8 million spent on renovating facilities in the Columbine Building and the neighboring barracks site, as well as to create a revitalizing new public square along East Cowes esplanade.
Isle of Wight MP Bob Seely raised the Island’s bid earlier this year in a parliamentary debate on the levelling up agenda and championed the bid in a series of meetings with Ministers in Westminster.
Seely said, “I am delighted to confirm that as part of Rishi and Boris’ levelling up plans for Britain, we’ve had the Island’s levelling up bid accepted: great news. The funding means improved facilities at the Columbine building: a greater refit capacity for marine clients and creating a centre of excellence for the R&D, construction & servicing of the green energy boat sector, vital for the Island’s future.”
“Funding also means renovating the Victorian barracks next to the Columbine for multi-purpose accommodation linked to marine skills. All the elements of this fund means jobs, prosperity and a better future for East Cowes and the Island,” he added. “We were not in the first round of priority bids. We had to change that and we did. Thanks to Boris and Rishi and their teams for listening & moving us up the priority funding list. I made it very clear to ministers that the Island needed this funding to invest in green shipbuilding and new jobs. We won the argument.”
“This is all possible because the Council and I worked to get the buildings after a previous deal, a bad one for the Island, fell through. So, from a poor future for these buildings, we’ve got a very positive one, creating jobs and prosperity for the future,” Seely concluded. “It’s also great for East Cowes. I am VERY aware that the town has been hurt by the ongoing dramas over the floating bridge. When people ask me what we are going to do to help East Cowes, the levelling up bid is my answer.”
Photo of the Columbine Building is by Ron Saunders, courtesy of the Office of Bob Seely.