Save Priory Bay from the developers
Save Priory Bay from the developers
Why this petition matters
Dear Priory Protectors,
Thank you for your support for the Save Priory Bay Campaign in 2019. 7000 of us came together in under two weeks to send a clear message of how important this place is to generations of Islanders and visitors. We have been quiet over the past couple years after the success of our campaign to prevent the coastal woodland above the beach being developed. Through the unprecedented trials of the last couple of years, the tranquility and wildness of this place has been more important than ever, and many of us have had reasons to be grateful for its restorative ways.
Many locals and visitors have commented on the increase in wildlife on the beach and through the woods. The former golf course attached to the Priory has been left to gently 'rewild' over the last three years, and has become species rich and diverse, contributing to the wonderful sight of numerous butterflies on the beach over the summer.
As you may have seen in August this year, Angelo Gordon, the multi-billion pound venture capital company that currently own The Priory, merged Aria Resorts with Away Resorts. The Priory was not part of this deal and our understanding is that the Priory, incorporating the Grade II listed buildings, forty-eight acres including the former golf course and the coastal woodland, is now for sale. Despite the numerous designations protecting this unique bit of coastline (see diagram) there is likely to be continued pressure to commercialise and develop it.
At September's meeting the Seaview and Nettlestone Parish Council reiterated its commitment to protect Priory Bay, and the new Isle of Wight Council's priorities include the preservation of the ecological and heritage capital of the Island. There are ongoing wide-ranging discussions about how sustainable housing and tourism can contribute to the Islands future, rather than destroying what makes the Island special.
Preserving Priory Bay's iconic status as an oasis of peace and tranquility in East Wight will be a test of our will to protect the best of the Island. The woods above Priory bay contain the earliest evidence of human habitation on the Island, and the long history of a religious community at the Priory, and the generations of people who have enjoyed the beach without restriction, underlies its cultural importance to the community.
Whoever is fortunate enough to purchase the Priory and become a guardian of this extraordinary place, we hope to be able to work together, and with the other local landowners, to ensure that the what makes this beach so important to so many people, continues.
We will keep you posted on any developments and please don't hesitate to get in touch if you would like to get involved.
Original petition below
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!
- Isle of Wight CouncilIsle of Wight Council Planning committee
- Aria Resorts