LETTERS From George Chastney, Cowes:
IT really beggars belief what this IW Council is doing to the Riverside Centre, and I concur with much contained in the letter from Tanja Rebel (CP, 23-11-12).
The fact that cessation of non-disabled community use undermines the whole financial viability of this centre is ignored by County Hall.
Is it too cynical to suggest that is exactly the reason behind the grotesquely bizarre decision? Could a 'for sale’ notice one day be erected on this extensive riverside site to enrich the council’s coffers?
Instead of being told the centre must cease to be available for non-disabled use, Richard Priest should be congratulated and encouraged over his enterprising approach towards management of the charity.
Even down to surrendering his office to the Island MP’s constituency staff and allocation of another small room to Newport Parish Council. As long as the rentals assist this centre to provide much-appreciated services to those Islanders less fortunate than most of us, who should really object?
It is not that disabled users are in any way inconvenienced by these and other community uses, including seminars and even wedding receptions. I am given to understand use by physically and mentally disabled people from across the Island has never been higher.
How ironical it is that the council’s shock announcement should come in the very year of the London Para-lympics; an event that so greatly improved the public’s perception and understanding of disabled people.
Integration magnificently illustrated as never before on the world stage.
People involved in the creation of the Riverside always envisaged the facility helping to pay its way through 'outside bookings’. It was also envisaged that it should receive an annual subsidy from the council; something that is now no longer forthcoming despite the fact the authority still demands a substantial annual rent (an absolute liberty considering the service it provides and the many public donations that helped pay for the building).
We should welcome, not criticise, the fact that 'public’ buildings on the Island have a dual use. Many schools have long been open for additional business, including out-of-hours games, dances and meetings.
Unless the majority of our elected councillors vote to rescind this ludicrous non-disabled ban the only sad conclusion to be drawn is that the council does not really have the centre and its users’ best interests at heart.
Perhaps, though, the most constructive thing the council could do with the Riverside is to sever all its links, as it already has done with several other iconic buildings on the Island, including Northwood House and Shanklin Theatre.
As a former public affairs manager of the IW Council I can sum up in just one word my opinion of my former employer’s current attitude to the Riverside: shameful.
• Another letter on this topic in the Friday, November 30, County Press.