The now discredited ‘Inner Circle’ Consulting (ICC) – Regeneration Programme.

The Isle of Wight Regeneration Programme
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During August 2016, the Isle of Wight Council commissioned ‘Inner Circle Consulting’ (ICC) to produce a Regeneration Programme.

The scope of this commission included looking at Island data and identifying potential development projects. The document can be found ….Here

PRO-LINK believes that this ICC document is seriously flawed and has been manipulated to suit personal preferences
Even though the ICC have created some pragmatic and sensible conclusions, without including the probability that an IOW Fixed Link will be constructed within the next 10-15 years, the ICC document is rendered virtually worthless. It describes the problems that exist on the island concerning the islands’ lack of fast, reliable and affordable transport connectivity to the South East. It does not however, deal with this most basic and fundamental foundation for generating growth on the island and PRO-LINK believe this ICC ‘Regeneration Programme’ has clearly succumbed to political pressures from its employers…. and also again, by the ferry companies.
PRO-LINK are aware that the ex Leader of the IOW Council – Jonathan Bacon is personally against having a Fixed Link for his own personal reasons. He has confirmed his intentions are to move to ‘Barra’ (an island in Scotland) if the IOW ever gets the go ahead for a fixed link.

This 17,963 word Regeneration Programme by the ICC has been commissioned by the IOW Council executive. PRO-LINK believes it has extremely biassed information within it, which appears to manipulatively dismiss the notion of an IOW Fixed Link. It States on page 19 –  3.3.3:

 –  “The case for an IOW fixed link bridge or tunnel is weak due to the very high cost (unjustified on the basis of current and future activity and development prospects), alignment feasibility and environmental constraints, as well as resistance by both Island residents and tourists.” …….. just 44 words to DISMISS the most fundamental potential foundation to assure the Isle of Wight’s future socio-economic success. 

The same document also says in contradiction:

  • Section 5.1.3 (page 53) states: The IOW Council shall ‘Commit to evidence based decisions’
  • Section 5.2.3 (page 56) states ‘…we believe (ICC) that each project should be developed through a consistent business case process…’

With this in mind, no evidence have been offered by the ICC to back up the dismissive 44 word statement regarding an IOW fixed link…
for instance:
  • Has the ICC studied and mentioned the (143 page) 1998 Fixed Link Feasibility Study that PRO-LINK managed to release from 17 years of Copyright? NO.         

However, the fixed link study DOES confirm that the islands socio-economic welfare is seriously deprived due lack of easy, fast and affordable cross Solent transport and DOES confirm there is an economic case to build one.

  • Has the ICC consulted PRO-LINK who have been carrying out a very public Fixed Link Campaign for over 2 years, gaining substantial knowledge while consulting bridge and tunnelling experts along with infrastructure specialists? NO.               

However, PRO-LINK HAS already gained attention from Central Government Department for Transport by confirming there certainly is a business case via tolls to build a £1.2billion Fixed Link Tunnel which will have less enviromnetal constraints than the present day IOW ferries …..Read More about the PRO-LINK business case for the ‘Solent Freedom Tunnel’.

  • Have member businesses in the IOW Chamber of Commerce EVER been consulted regarding the advantages of an IOW Fixed Link, either by the CoC themselves or the ICC? NO.             

However, PRO-LINK HAVE consulted island businesses. The majority are too afraid to speak out to support a Fixed Link ….Read More

  • Has the ICC consulted islanders and tourists about whether they would prefer to have a fixed link option to travel to and from the IOW? NO.          

However, PRO-LINK CAN offer evidence to show that the majority of tourists are in favour of a Fixed Link . To see the tourist opinions on the problems caused to tourists by the ferries on a Meridian News comment thread (188 comments + replies) ….Click Here.  For other news clippings to show the ferry dissatisfaction by tourists …..Click Here soon

  •  Has the ICC consulted residents on the island to consider whether a fixed link is desired? NO.           

However, PRO-LINK CAN offer evidence to show that the majority of islanders are in overwhelming support of an IOW Fixed Link ….Click Here

  • To view a Fixed Link Facebook Group discussion on this ICC subject ….Click Here 

The ICC has admitted certain things:

It states on Pages 3 and 4:

“However, the data-dive exercise also revealed that the Island has a number of barriers to achieving growth. These are related in part to the ‘Island factors’ of separation from the mainland and high cost of delivering services, but also a sustained lack of investment in its tourist offer, issues with the transport infrastructure and reduced economic activity resulting from the ageing demographic and a working-age population reliant on low-skilled, seasonal employment”.

Which the document goes on to admit causes:

  • High cost of delivering services.
  • A sustained lack of investment in the tourist offer.
  •  Issues with transport infrastructure.
  • Ageing demographic
  •  A reliance on low-skilled, seasonal employment

On Page 19, the document states: 

“Connectivity between the Isle of Wight and the mainland relies significantly on ferry services. These services can be costly and there is space for improvement of the quality of travel experience they offer.” 

On Pages 14 and 15, it states that the Island’s economy remains fragile in terms of:

  • Employment rate
  •  Average wages
  •  Added GVA growth
  • Business ‘birth’ rate
  • Productivity
  • People with higher level qualifications…..

while also stating that…..

  • ” The Isle of Wight economy is constrained by its island location and a lack of major infrastructure connecting it to the mainland”

If the IOW Council is stating it will make all its decisions based on evidence, why does this not apply to the IOW Fixed Link?

The Fixed Link is a serious fundamental issue in considering the economic and social well-being of the Isle of Wight for generations to come. The gravity of this subject can not be dismissed in non-evidence based, anecdotal and emotive statements.

PRO-LINK believes it is crucial that the Fixed Link subject is backed up by an independent feasibility study. Any decision must be made with evidence and facts, not through-away, ill-informed or self serving misinformation as it appears in the ICC report. 

The ICC Regeneration Programme is a  17,963 word document. It has dedicated 44 words to the subject of an IOW Fixed Link. PRO-LINK believes such a cursory dismissal of the most fundamental solution to the island’s dire socio-economic situation is highly suspicious . In contrast for instance, the section on the car parks concentrating around and including the Shanklin Cliff Lift, warrants 280 words and like the rest of the document subjects, appears to quite detailed and researched, with examples of notable lifts, etc.

It does appear that the ICC have merely lifted a statement from the Solent Strategic Transport Investment Plan where the map (figure 2.5) on Page 24 states:

“Case for an Isle of Wight Fixed Link:

  • Alignment feasibility and environmental constraints likely to be a major constraint
  • High cost unlikely to be justified on the basis of existing and future activity and development prospects on the Isle of Wight”

The Solent Local Economic Partnership (SLEP) have provided a list of the documents used in preparation of the Travel Plan and looking at all of them produces one sentence from one document which states:

  • “There is no tunnel or bridge”.

The 1998 feasibility study does not appear on the SLEP list of referenced documents. It would appear that the needs of the Island were not of much importance.

So we come back to the question: Why has the Regeneration Programme dismissed the IOW Fixed Link?

To summarise, we can only ask questions and pose theories:

  •  Was ICC under instruction not to investigate the economic advantages of a Fixed Link?
    The now ex leader of the IOW Council has confirmed he is personally against a Fixed Link.
  • Were presumptions made that the information in the SLEP document, had actually been researched?
    It appears that the ICC has done no research whatever.
  • Are personal preferences getting in the way of the Island’s economic progress?
    This appears to be a historic failing of the IOW Council.
  • Is this open and transparent?
    There appears to be no evidence to back up the dismissal of a Fixed Link.
  • Is this against the Council’s declared remit of ‘evidence- based decisions’?
    No evidence to back up the ICC dismissal of a Fixed Link has been produced.
  • Why can’t the Fixed Link Feasibility Study run alongside the Regeneration Plan?
    Of course It can. However some aspects of the document must be adjusted to allow for the eventual implementation of the Fixed Link.
  • PRO-LINK are aware of the incredible influence that Wightlink wield over the SLEP via SLEP “business Director” and ex CEO of Wighlink – Russel Kew. We believe this to be a massive conflict of interest.
  • Why has there never been any public consultancy with Island businesses regarding an IOW Fixed Link, either within the IOW Chamber of Commerce or the IOW Small Business Association?
    It appears that even though island businesses would prefer faster and cheaper links to the mainland, the two ferry companies have too much power within these institutions and prevent Fixed Link discussion.
  • PRO-LINK believes this ICC report that dismisses the Fixed Link option with no supportive evidence and is designed to assist the Red Funnel plans in East Cowes to extend their marshalling yards. To give the public perception of a dismissal of the Fixed Link option, will leave the way clear for Red Funnel plans.