Lack of maintenance at the former Ryde Arena ice rink caused the business behind Mermaid Gin to withdraw from major development plans, an Isle of Wight councillor has claimed.

Cllr Michael Lilley — of Ryde Community Trust and who will represent the Liberal Democrats in Isle of Wight East at the next general election — asked a question at the Isle of Wight Council's cabinet meeting last week.

He asked what action the Isle of Wight Council plans to take over what he called a 'lack of maintenance' on the major building on Ryde seafront.

He said lack of maintenance was why Isle of Wight Distillery pulled out from the process to turn the building into an attraction and distillery hub.

When Isle of Wight Distillery withdrew its plans, it did not explain why and has not commented on Cllr Lilley's suggestion that the condition of the building was to blame.

Ryde Arena plans are "hugely exciting" say distillery founders

Leaseholders of Ryde Arena, AEW said it will continue to maintain the condition of the property in accordance with its leasehold obligations while it works on future plans for the building.

Leader of the Isle of Wight Council, Cllr Phil Jordan, said the lease requires the arena's structure to be well maintained and that County Hall is working with AEW to "see what repairs and maintenance might be required and practical to undertake."

The freehold is owned by the council but, since 2014, the lease has been in the hands of the multi-national investment firm, AEW.

The building has been empty since 2016, when the once popular and much-used ice rink, formerly Planet Ice, closed.

The Isle of Wight Council had tried to take AEW to court — to try to get the building back — but the arbitration proceedings came to an end in 2021 before an agreement could be reached.

At the time, the council reaffirmed its commitment to resolving the arena's future and said it would not accept proposals to replace the ice rink with retail.

Ryde Arena once housed the Isle of Wight Raiders ice hockey team and numerous ice-skating groups, and its disuse has forced many to travel to the mainland to practice and compete.

Hopes for an ice rink on the Island were raised in recent years with plans approved for such a facility next to Smallbrook Stadium but no work has been done since planning permission was approved.