PLANS to regenerate the harbour in the centre of the Isle of Wight are a step closer — as plans have now been approved as a starting point for major changes.

At a meeting of the Isle of Wight Council's cabinet last night (Thursday), the Newport Harbour Masterplan (NHM) was unanimously approved.

The masterplan, which would aid further planning applications, contains ambitious proposals for the waterfront and surrounding areas by building a new hotel, multi-storey car park and footbridge across the River Medina while also using brownfield sites to provide housing, some of which will be affordable.

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Speaking at the meeting, Cllr Wayne Whittle, cabinet member for regeneration and business development, said the potential scope the site has for enhancing Newport, extending the town centre and bringing the derelict buildings back into use is a key priority for the regeneration strategy.

He said: "The masterplan gets the balance right between ambition and delivery, providing three phases of mixed-use development including a new cultural and conference facility for the Island with much needed new hotel capacity."

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Cllr Whittle also spoke of other positives the council hopes the site will create, such as jobs, more users of the harbour and more people travelling into the town on foot instead of via car by using the new footbridge.

Following the approval of the masterplan, development plots will be put on the market but Cllr Whittle said government funds will be needed to help make some plots viable and to help support the wider infrastructure.

The suggestion of around 40 houses on the entrance to Seaclose Park has been removed from the masterplan following backlash from the local community.

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Cllr Barry Abraham, cabinet member for planning and housing, said he was apprehensive about putting the houses there in the first place but now it has been taken out, other brownfield areas in the harbour and around Newport will offset the loss of housing on Seaclose.

He said: "We will need to look how we encourage more people into the town and indeed more people to live in the town.

"If we are going to stop a lot of the greenfield developments that people so dislike, the only way we are going to be able to do it is to look at our towns and see how we can regenerate them.

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"Newport has a large area of brownfield sites, sites that are not actually used, and that is what we really need to push forward."

Now, 228 residential units could be built through the development phases which will help fund parts of the project — the first phase could see a 149 residential units, 49 being affordable, built first.