Isle of Wight MP – Andrew Turner – has said he fears for the future of Ryde Arena and believes the Isle of Wight Council have handled the situation in the ‘wrong way’.
His comments come after Green Party Leader, Vix Lowthian, wrote an open letter on her Facebook page asking for Mr Turner’s help in securing its future and assurances over the potential environmental impact.
Ryde Arena closed its doors earlier this month after leaseholders AEW Europe/BNMY Mellon pulled the plug, after tenants Ryde Arena Limited failed to keep up rent payments.
On her Facebook page, Vix said:
“The closure of the Island’s only ice rink has had a devastating effect on the local community, and I am writing to you in the hope that you can help our plight. Hundreds of islanders used the rink, for sports and recreation. Young people were involved in competitions and training for ice hockey, figure skating and just to have fun. I have been to skate there since I first came to the island, been in the audience for various games and productions and more recently with my young boys skating on the ice themselves.
“Without the rink, this is all over. Without the rink, there is no substitute. Without the rink, there is no sports, no dance and no community friendships.
“There must be a solution to this huge loss to the island youth and sports provision. It is irreplaceable. Please work with them to get a rink going again.
“In addition, the melting of the ice and associated chemicals through the closure of the building is a big environmental concern – especially so close to the sea. The lease-holders must be held fully accountable for their actions in not keeping the ice in situ and creating the possibility of worrying consequences for leeching of materials after 25 years rink activity. Please can you ensure that safe practices are being upheld.”
In a statement to Isle of Wight Radio, Mr Turner said:
“I met Ian Jenkins, Chairman of Ryde Arena, and representatives of Ryde Arena Community Action Group to see if anything could be done to save the rink.
“I have also made Karen Bradley MP (Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport) aware of the situation, but she cannot intervene in a legal agreement between the Isle of Wight Council and their tenants.
“I had already asked Rachel McIsaac, Executive Director of UK Asset Management, the tenant’s representative, to come to the Island to discuss this.
“However in view of reports that the ice had already been removed I asked for urgent clarification on the current position. This afternoon she told me, ‘The tenant couldn’t pay rent. Nobody else has come forward with a commercially viable plan to pay the rent. The council has confirmed they don’t want to take the lease and the ice rink on. We have no alternative than to protect our investor’s interests by decommissioning the ice rink and closing the facility.’
“I must say that things are not looking good to find a viable future for the facility.
“As Craig Williams, Acting Chair of Ryde Arena Community Group says, ‘The IW Council have clearly handled it in the wrong way.’ I agree with him in that the requirement for the building to be used as an ice-rink lasted only for fifteen years – that time is now up.
“I do not know the exact terms of the lease but it is clearly for the Council to ensure that conditions are enforced and make decisions about the future of the building. I have already written to them about this.
“The Council are also responsible for ensuring that there are no adverse environmental effects as a result of the actions of the lessee.”
An Isle of Wight Council spokesperson told Isle of Wight Radio:
“We are ensuring the tenant AEW is complying with the terms of its lease and we are still seeking clarification about its plans for future use of the building.
“The council has already expressed its concern to AEW about the condition of the ice pad and loops within it and has alerted AEW to the possibility of contamination to the surrounding area should any liquid leak from the loops.
“We continue to monitor the situation.”