Andrew Turner, the Island’s MP, held a public meeting in East Cowes Town Hall on Saturday 17th April giving Islanders an opportunity to decide whether they would support an amendment to the Osborne Estates Act to allow English Heritage to explore other uses for the former King Edward VII Convalescent Home rooms which have been unused since 2000.
In a lively meeting, attended by around 100 people, Mark Pemberton of English Heritage outlined the options that had been considered and the problems in finding a suitable alternative use for the rooms in a grade one listed building, much of which is open to the public. Former members of staff from the convalescent Home gave accounts of life there, and argued that every avenue should be explored to return the rooms to their previous usage. A variety of suggestions for alternative uses were discussed, ranging from craft workshops to a heritage education centre. At the end of the meeting a show of hands indicated overwhelming support for Mr Turner to work with his colleagues in Government to amend the Act.
Mr Turner said, “If the Osborne Estates Act is to be amended and alternative uses for the rooms explored, it is essential that local views are considered. There was a good turnout at the meeting on Saturday and there was a clear indication that the majority of those who attended want to look at ways to utilise what is, unfortunately, currently unused space.”
This does not mean that there will never be a convalescent home in Osborne again. Mr Turner said:
“If a suitable organisation identified a need for a convalescent home in Osborne, and they committed to funding and managing it, I have no doubt that English Heritage would look favourably on any proposal. But if the Act is amended it will allow them to properly consider other uses which would of course need planning and other permissions. However, the clear view of the meeting was that the rooms should be used rather than sitting empty. If anybody who was unable to attend the meeting would like to put forward their views or suggestions for the future use of the rooms I would be happy to hear from them.”