Island community leaders are reacting to plans announced today that could see large parts of Newport town centre turned into house.

The home of the Isle of Wight Council - County Hall - as well at the fire and police stations could be included in the plans being floated by the Conservatives, as an election pledge.

However, critics say the plans lack imagination, a copy of what's previously been suggested and missing the real problems faced by Newport town centre.

Read responses to the plans below...

Islanders will go to the polls on May 6.

Isle of Wight County Press:

The Green party: The Isle of Wight Green Party vision for Newport town centre goes beyond this very conservative ‘masterplan’ of building flats and houses, and will put the needs of people and local businesses at the heart of our county town. 

The biggest challenge our town centre faces in the next four years is not building flats but a targeted scheme to tackle the huge number of vacant shops on the high street, particularly large, central sites.

Vix Lowthion, chair of Isle of Wight Greens and Newport resident said: "These Conservative proposals for Newport are far from ambitious, and completely lack the essential imagination and vision which we need to implement a post-Covid strategy to regenerate our county towns.

"Green Party councillors will encourage residents to live above shops and in our town centres but we also value the essential social and economic roles which our town centres fulfil for the whole island to be able to meet, browse, enjoy and take an active part in island life.

"We can provide for indoor markets, learning hubs, a community cinema, youth services, repair shops and upcycling centres to ensure that no resources go to waste.

"Newport doesn’t need more housing without developing more opportunities for infrastructure. We desperately need a central post office, a larger, more modern building for our health centre and more provision for dental services, not a ‘masterplan’ of luxury apartments and blocks of flats.

"Why have the Conservatives shied away from the difficult issues? Residents must conclude that they are really not up to the challenge of leading the council at this critical time."

Isle of Wight County Press:

Our Island's Jonathan Bacon said: "This is a good idea, but it's not a new one.

"It was being discussed at least five years ago as an initial idea for the regeneration of Newport.

"It's interesting that the Conservatives have suddenly decided to put it forward now.

"We wait to see what other ideas they originally opposed, rejected or did nothing about in the last four years will be put forward in the next few weeks.

"The proposal to use the Guildhall is interesting. Several other proposals have been put forward for its use but have all fallen due to the fact the building needs at least £6m spent on it to make it safe.

"Our Island would support such proposals but as part of a wider scheme to look at our high streets and businesses as well. We need to get our local economy functioning first and then look at the housing sector.

"However we think the key issue is not just to rehouse the Council in its current form, but to completely restructure the Council organisation, to make it work in the 21st Century.

"Until this is done we will lack the capacity and organisation to properly advance any proposals to regenerate the Island, as the last four years have shown."

Isle of Wight County Press:

Isle of Wight Labour's Richard Quigley said: "I'm glad the Conservatives have admitted they have presided over the decline of our county town, but it's not just Newport that needs regeneration.

"They have presided over a huge reduction in services whilst further increasing council tax.

"This latest announcement is another knee jerk reaction and doesn't form part of a comprehensive regeneration plan for the Island as a whole.

"It looks more like a threat of "elect us, or Newport dies".

"Island Labour have an joined up strategy for regeneration, centred around building community wealth, council homes and well paid jobs.

"Sadly the Tories are just grasping at straws."

Isle of Wight County Press:

Cllr Julie Jones-Evans, who has been representing Newport Central and is part of the Independent Members Group, said: "While I welcome at long last the Conservatives' focus on the county town (although they show an acute lack of awareness of what the issues are), I hope people won't be fooled by the smoke and mirrors of this announcement.

"You only have to look at what they have done over the past four years and then see how that stacks up against this very ambitious statement.

"I remember the plans for a new fire station in 2009!

"I'd ask people to recall the out-of-town retail planning permissions that they were responsible for, actively working against the interests of  the health and vitality of Newport.

"Look at what they have done, not what they say, is my message.

"I don't want to be overly critical because Newport needs investment.

"We have a vision with Shaping Newport and a strong partnership that can deliver positive change.

"Personally, I'm looking forward to creating more markets, bringing back the post office, getting equality for parking, working on an empty shop strategy, enhanced public realm and creating much-needed housing above shops.

"If there is a big pot of money for investing into Newport I'd be ecstatic, but I'm slightly sceptical, given we have been overlooked time after time (except the Shaping Newport-led High Street Heritage Action Zone investment of £1.4m).

"As for the new permitted development rights for town centres, Island Conservatives were against this proposal and a robust objection was put into the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

"I'm surprised they are now applauding this policy. These rights are actually a big threat to our towns, potentially decimating the shopping core, as we would have no right to object to conversions from retail to residential even in the conservation area."

Isle of Wight County Press:

The Vectis Party said: "We find the timing of the announcement somewhat unsurprising and would caution anyone who puts great faith in the Conservatives to deliver this plan to not get their hopes up. 

"This masterplan for Newport has been aired previously and has several major flaws that have kept it from ever being implemented. 

"One big stumbling block is that much of the land is on a floodplain and developers have been hesitant to take it on as the costs outweigh the potential benefits to them. 

"This plan also overlooks the blindingly obvious problem for Newport which is the decline of retail. 

"By our reckoning much of the retail stock is too large for use by independent retailers which we expect to be the future of town centres as the big chains die out or switch to online sales. 

"By including St. Thomas Square in residential plans the Conservatives are putting at risk the very retail areas where recovery can begin.

"What is needed is residential development of South Street including the relocation of the fire station.

"Indeed the creation of a tri-service control hub has been championed by our Leader Daryll Pitcher for many years. 

"The resulting finance raised from this house building should then be used to support the redevelopment of the town centre for retail in the 21st century’s digital age."

Isle of Wight County Press:

Matthew Ambrosini, the Conservative candidate for new Newport Central ward (which includes the Riverside Quarter area) said: “Newport town centre has been through a very challenging year.

"Residents have been telling me that a different approach is needed.

"Bringing hundreds more people to live in Newport Town Centre will provide much needed footfall for local shops and catering establishments – including helping to grow a vibrant night-time economy.

“If we focus on getting the policy right, we can ensure that these are local homes for Islanders, on a range of tenures – including giving more people the opportunity to get their foot on the housing ladder.

"I will be discussing these proposals with Newport Central residents over the coming weeks, and I look forward to hearing their feedback.”