A FORMER school building in Ryde will be bought by the town council — with the aim of bringing the building back into community use.

Following negotiations with the current owners of the building, Vectis Hall, on Melville Street, will be withdrawn from auction and sold to the authority for £125,000 after the move was agreed at last night's (Monday) town council.

Due to the poor state of the hall, and its Grade II listed status, the town council has said it will be a long-term project with hopes to commence work within the next three to five years.

Initially, there are plans to tidy up the site and stop further damage from water ingress and vandalism.

Vectis Hall was the first 'Free School' in Ryde, built in the early 1800s and given to the people of Ryde by the great, great grandmother of Princess Diana, but has been neglected for the last few years.

Mayor of Ryde, Michael Lilley said: “Ryde Town Council has seen many of Ryde’s historic buildings decline under absent private owners over many years and now we have a proactive approach to purchase them. If we did not act now on Vectis Hall then it would be too late.

"For many years it was a much-loved community dance hall — I remember dance hall scenes from the film That’ll be the Day being filmed there as a teenager.

"We hope to develop young people’s employment project around its renovation. It is great to reclaim it for Ryde residents.”

With support from the community, both financial and practical, a Friends of Vectis Hall group will be formed and the town council has said it will welcome anyone who wishes to help with the restoration. Interested parties should contact the council.

The town council says it will work with the Isle of Wight Council's conservation officer and other organisations such as Historic England to safeguard the building.

Cllr Phil Jordan said the council was absolutely delighted it had agreed to purchase the property and was now enthusiastic about saving the building and securing its future for community use.

"After all the years of disrepair and dereliction, we have finally saved it," he said.

"We are going to keep our options open but there are very interesting plans we are going to look at.

"This is very much a community project — we are going to show how the community and the council can work together for the benefit of everyone."

One of the ideas which has come forward is from Ryde resident Peter Venner who would like to turn the former school building back to its former glory by turning it into a school of traditional building methods — restoring the building while teaching students.

Reacting to the 'extremely' good news, Mr Venner said it was a tremendous step for the Isle of Wight and the community.

"It will bring something really worthwhile to Ryde. The project I have in mind is it will provide really worthwhile opportunities for young people.

"There is so much enthusiasm for this already on the Isle of Wight. With a bit of luck, it may come off now."