A £7 MILLION bid is being made to reinstate East Cowes as a focus for the marine industry on the Island.

The Isle of Wight Council and MP Bob Seely are looking for a slice of the £4.8 billion Levelling Up Fund, created by Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak.

The announcement was made at last night's (Wednesday) Isle of Wight Council cabinet meeting by the new leader, Cllr Lora Peacey-Wilcox.

While the fund is open to every authority in the UK, Mr Sunak said it is especially intended to support investment in places where it can make the biggest difference to everyday life, including ex-industrial areas, deprived towns and coastal communities.

The fund has been designed to regenerate town centres, high streets, upgrade local transport and invest in cultural and heritage assets.

New cabinet member for regeneration and business development, Cllr Julie Jones-Evans laid out the proposals, which will hopefully attract more visitors, jobs and training to the East Cowes area.

Having bought buildings and land at Venture Quays last year, the council is looking to bring more workspace online in the Columbine Building to create more jobs and provide improved marine side infrastructure.

A wide range of refit work is also proposed for the historic barrack building, which was used in filming BritBox drama The Beast Must Die.

Along the Esplanade, a public realm project is proposed, which Cllr Jones-Evans said could include a dramatic new harbour viewing platform.

Cllr Jones-Evans said: "Our proposal will help level up East Cowes and make it a major gateway for the rest of the Island, wider Solent region and UK economy."

The matter was raised in a parliamentary debate this week where Mr Seely said the levelling-up agenda for the Isle of Wight implies many things.

He said: "That includes not only economic development but training and skills, education, which is critical, health outcomes, greater environmental protection, housing and planning.

"Effectively, we want a strategic road map for the next 50 years that has more to offer the Island than we have had in the past 50 years.”

Despite the Isle of Wight being ranked as the 80th most deprived local authority area in England (out of 317) by the 2019 Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government Indices of Deprivation — ranking 44th for employment and 65th for income deprivation — the Island has been given a category two priority status.

Category one represents the highest level of identified need with preference given to bids by the government from higher priority areas.

The prospectus for the Levelling Up Fund said bids from category two or three local authorities will still be considered for funding on their merits of deliverability, value for money and strategic fit, and 'could still be successful if they are of exceptionally high quality'.

A letter with the bid is going to government tomorrow (Friday) in which Mr Seely said plans for the Island are to provide vision and leadership.

He said: "The East Cowes Marine hub scheme has been chosen because first, it is important in its own right, and second, it is time-sensitive and projects must be deliverable within a time frame, so planning permission must have already been sought. I thank council officers for their valuable work in this regard."

Mr Seely said the marine hub would "grow the number of high paid jobs in marine manufacturing enabling the focused diversion of the industry on the Island into supporting the UK wind, tidal and offshore renewable sectors. This will help address the imbalance between high paid and low paid jobs and permanent and seasonal employment affecting the life chances of local people."

Working with Cllr Peacey-Wilcox, Mr Seely said the marine hub is a key part of the Island's broader vision for the future as it influences bids for other government funding opportunities.