To anyone who has walked around the centre of Newport, the Covid pandemic has had a horrible impact.

It’s awful to see so many buildings now standing vacant, and with them, the loss of jobs that they represent.

Shops have shut in other Island towns too.

The pandemic has changed our country, and we must change with it. We need ambitious plans that bring about renewal and revival and which enable us to face the future with confidence; we need to build back better.

At the top of the list must be the regeneration of our town centres, and our county town of Newport is a good place to start.

Read more: In pictures — Newport's sorry looking empty shops.

Incumbent council leader Dave Stewart and his colleagues have been working on innovative plans to rejuvenate the lower High Street area as well as the harbour.

The need for regeneration is not confined to Newport, we need also to look at other towns including Ryde and Sandown.

New housing in town centres has a critical role to play. In most towns, but, particularly Newport, there are tired brownfield sites that can be used to create new homes.

Isle of Wight County Press: Newport's empty shops. Picture by Roger Sanders.Newport's empty shops. Picture by Roger Sanders.

However, the important thing here is that homes that are built are built for Islanders, and that they are affordable — and that means the council working with social housing providers to ensure the land is used for the public good.

So, I want to see housing especially aimed at the needs of young people. But there’s more than just housing: we need an emphasis on jobs creation on the Island in new economies such as green energy and more higher education to offer more choice for young Islanders.

There’s an additional, important point here. By ensuring that we build in towns, I want the council to do more to block low density, greenfield development, which is unsustainable.

There are several government funds to support regeneration and the ‘levelling up’ agenda. We’ll be applying for them.

At the same time, I am still trying to get a better deal from the government on housing numbers. We have succeeded in having them changed, but there is more to do.

So, there’s a single agenda here. We invest in our towns to help provide the homes we need as well as jobs and opportunities for the Island.

By regenerating town centres we take pressure off greenfield sites.

That’s how, on the Island, we can build back better.