Save Priory Bay from the developers

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Priory Bay is an oasis of peace and wildness and is arguably* the most beautiful beach on the Isle of Wight. It is also the only undeveloped beach between Ryde and Bembridge and with ancient broadleaf woodland reaching down to the sand, is a very rare habitat on the Island, and in the UK.  Loved by adults and children for generations, it holds a very special place in many peoples' imaginations, locals and visitors alike.

Aria Resorts have applied to redevelop the Priory Bay Hotel above the beach, and want to site 10 'tree-houses' in the woods overlooking the beach. The Isle of Wight Planning Committee meet next Tuesday, 5th March 2019 to approve, reject or amend their plans.  Despite the objections of the local Parish Council and Island Roads, and the concerns of the ecology and tree officers, the planning officers are advising that the development scheme is passed without any changes.

Aria resorts is owned by a $32 billion American venture capital fund called 'Angelo Gordon', who say on their website that “Everything we buy and everywhere we buy it, our goal is to create value.”. Angelo Gordon’s fund buys distressed assets, such as Priory Bay Hotel, with the aim of selling them on within 3-6 years at a targeted profit of twice what they have invested. Once Priory Bay is 'developed' it can never be 'undeveloped', and we will have lost another part of what makes the Island so special. We are not opposing the ‘redevelopment’ of the Priory Bay Hotel, but these plans are ‘overdevelopment’, and therefore the destruction of natural assets that cannot be replaced.

The cliffs above the beach are unstable because they are full of blue slipper clay, which caused all the old houses in neighbouring Seagrove Bay to fall into the sea last century.   The 'tree-houses' will either damage the trees, or have foundations into the unstable cliffs and as semi permanent structures will alter the spirit of this important place. Some trees will doubtless be removed (the application states 20, it will probably be more) and it is the trees that are holding the cliffs together.  The increased footfall up and down the cliffs will hasten the erosion which has gathered pace in the last few years as the sea level rises, slowly but surely.

The area cared for by the National Trust at the Nodes Point end of the beach is a SSSI due to the arrowheads discovered there, which are the earliest evidence of human habitation anywhere on the Island.   Building in this wildlife corridor will negatively impact the red squirrels, buzzards, badgers and many other key species who live in these woods.  The feeling of being overlooked will alter the experience for everyone of being on Priory Bay and a precious community resource will be compromised.

We ask the Isle of Wight Planning Committee as guardians of the Island to:-

- Reject the development of the 10 treehouses that are located in Priory Woods on the basis that this is ancient semi-natural woodland, of national importance in close proximity (within 15 metres) to the Priory Woods SSSI.

-Closely consider the perspectives of the Parish Council and Island Roads in reducing the density of the proposed development, especially the chalets and lodges.

-Prioritise safeguarding the ecology of this unique area for the long term future, rather than short term economic benefit, in line with the sustainable development goals laid out in the Island Plan.

Thank you for signing - please share far and wide - we only have until Tuesday 5th March to make our voices heard.

*I am biased - but I have walked all the way round it!