Plans to enhance Cowes' reputation as an international sailing destination have been backed by an agreement by the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) to invest more than £3m in major infrastructure improvements.
The HCA is to invest £3.16m in the Cowes Harbour Commission's proposals to install a new 400m-long stone breakwater barrier near the main harbour entrance, to offer marine craft and the local area extra protection from high winds and tidal pressures.
The Cowes Harbour Breakwater project aims to bring a significant economic boost to the area by supporting the Island's marine and tourism economy and generating millions of pounds from extra visitors and increased trade for local cafes, hotels and businesses. It aims to provide the harbour with an extended sailing season to allow events to be hosted beyond the summer months and offer extra protection for commercial vessels and ferry services throughout the year.
The HCA's investment represents an additional £3m contribution to the project, with £3m coming from the Commission's own funds. It will see construction work start in earnest later this year.
Colin Molton, HCA Executive Director for the South and South West, said: "This investment has clear benefits for an important local project and the wider economy, by securing employment, extra investment and keeping an internationally renowned sailing venue firmly on the map.
"This is a strong signal of our commitment to the Isle of Wight. This is a complex project and has required the long-standing commitment of all partners to get to this present stage. We are keen to work with partners to ensure that work is completed on time and that local people start to feel and see benefits of the investment."
Chief Executive of Cowes Harbour Commission and Cowes Harbour Master, Captain Stuart McIntosh, said: "Constructing the breakwater starts a process to unlock the full potential of Cowes as a true sheltered harbour. It starts a new cycle of investment in Cowes and East Cowes that will directly support our existing marine sector, harbour users and local businesses, but importantly also assists Cowes to win more international business and events. This is good for the Isle of Wight and the Solent region. Cowes enjoys an illustrious history and this new partnership will bring over 50 years of planning into reality, stimulating further investment that will undoubtedly strengthen our future."
Councillor Shirley Smart, Isle of Wight Council cabinet member for tourism and economy, said: "Inward investment in the Island is to be welcomed. We hope the breakwater project will become a catalyst for the much-needed economic growth of other areas, including sites in East Cowes over which the HCA has control or influence."
The agreement to invest follows extensive consultation with local residents and stakeholders, which found strong support for the project.
The project is expected to take around 12 months to complete.