THE Isle of Wight Council leader has had to defend a visit to Floating Bridge 5 — after pictures appeared to show the group may not have been adhering to Covid guidelines.

It emerged last week a group of Isle of Wight councillors comprising of the leader of the council Cllr Dave Stewart, transport chief Cllr Ian Ward, and opposition councillors Lora Peacey-Wilcox and Karl Love, visited the old vessel in Gosport to see the condition it was in, despite no longer owning the boat.

Isle of Wight County Press:

Since the pictures emerged, the group has been criticised for apparently not sticking to Covid-19 guidelines — such as the Rule of Six, wearing face masks and socially distancing.

When asked about the visit, Cllr Stewart said he thought they had endeavoured to comply with the guidance as far as was practical in the circumstances and "I took all reasonable steps to keep myself and others safe."

Cllr Stewart said masks were worn when necessary on public transport and he 'confirmed from the outset' there would be a maximum of six in the group, agreeing 'to attend on that basis', as he did not arrange the visit.

In some pictures, however, there is a seventh person, a worker, spotted with the councillors, but according to government guidelines, before the second lockdown was enforced, the Rule of Six did not apply to work meetings.

Isle of Wight County Press:

Cllr Stewart said: "I wore a face mask onto the transport barge as well and then kept myself distanced. However I took my directions thereafter from the captain and crew and also stood where it was safe and acceptable to meet health and safety requirements.

"We were all outside on the transport barge so mitigation was further provided in that way and as is shown in photographs I had my jacket hood up as well for additional personal protection.

"I certainly kept my social distance as far as practical."

Cllr Karl Love also said the group did its best to socially distance in its group of six.

Giving feedback on the visit, Cllr Stewart said what he had seen was a 'rusty wreck' with no intention of bringing it back. However, Cllr Ward said the vessel could go back into service but it would cost 'an awful amount of money'.