Right strategic direction
Like John R Orme (Examiner letters, November 18) I was surprised that the Department of Economic Development chose to appoint a new director of tourism, albeit on a fixed non-pensionable term. But the reasons for my surprise differ greatly from his.
He [Mr Orme] says that ‘tourism is dead’ and ‘remains a zombie business’.
I say the visitor economy already has the strategic direction that you would expect a director to develop.
Tourists travel to the Isle of Man throughout the year but, unlike the ‘good old days’ they do not sit on a crowded beach with raw sewage being pumped into the sea in which they bathe.
They stay in good quality hotels and many play golf, travel on the vintage railways and walk or cycle around the countryside. The majority bring their cars and many stay outside of the towns in self-catering properties the market for which continues to expand. They visit the Manx National Heritage sites, they have fun on segways and motorised trikes. Visitors bring motorbikes every week of the year and thousands more come by coach.
Almost without exception, first time visitors to the Isle of Man are surprised at the variety of landscape and attractions.
Hotel prices for business visitors represent excellent value compared to other business centres. The Isle of Man is not competing for tourists with cheap sunshine destinations but is in the same market as the Lake District and Cornwall but is often cheaper and is certainly less crowded (a strength not a weakness).
Remove year-round tourism and you lose the capacity required to accommodate visitors at the special events. Neglect tourism and you can no longer justify many of the heritage sites, or the maintenance costs of glens and walks that add so much amenity value for the Manx and other residents.
Grow tourism and other parts of the economy benefit too. Restaurants and cafes that gain custom from business visitors would not be there without tourists. Discourage tourists and there will be far fewer travel options for residents.
The comparison between visitors to the Isle of Man and the numbers at Alton Towers is meaningless.
I question whether we can maintain so much public transport and so many heritage sites and I certainly do not believe that government spending on such assets generates as much benefit for the economy as it says, Undoubtedly some expenditure is greater than it need be.
But tourism in the Isle of Man is not dead and it will be alive longer if people from within ceased saying it is. Its integration with other areas of economic activity to pay for the services that the government provides and the amenities that we all enjoy can be the only justification for the revival of this post. Furthermore, I hope I am wrong and that there remains scope for the incumbent to build positively on the good work already being performed by the officers supporting the industry.
Murray Lambden, Brunswick Road, Douglas.
Who can help with the pier?
I read with interest the recent letter from Mr R Crowhurst to the Examiner (November 11) regarding the renovation of the Queen’s Pier, Ramsey.
I have to admit that I am in broad agreement with his ideas and I believe that if the situation regarding the pier is to move forward it will be as a result of private individuals, like him, joining forces with other like minded people, to create a dynamic organisation capable of taking on and managing the task.
It is obvious that the government no longer has the funds or, seemingly, the will, to undertake this major task and if the situation is allowed to continue the pier will continue to be a burden on the finances of the island with the inevitable result of its terminal decay.
I, and I am sure many others, would wish to see the pier restored to its former glory, but equally, no doubt, there will be many who will question the viability and usefulness of such a restoration.
I am also sure that there were those who questioned the restoration of the Laxey Wheel, the Camera Obscura and many other restorations which have taken place over the years, all of which have added significantly to the general well-being of the island and its proud heritage.
It would be interesting to find out the level of voluntary support such an idea might command and the level of expertise (financial, legal, logistical and technical etc) which might be available in terms of private individuals and organisations and I would be interested in meeting up with anyone with a particular skill or interest in the preservation and restoration of the Queen’s Pier, to see if it is worth pursuing this idea further.
I can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
William (Bill) Wade, Minorca Hill, Laxey.
Look again at the bus timetable
An open letter to Ian Longworth, director of public transport.
Following on from the public meeting held in Onchan on Thursday, October 9, I have now received a copy of the notes from the meeting.
On behalf the Onchan residents who attended the meeting, I would like to provide the following concerns, observations and feedback which were raised during the course of the meeting.
I must also record my sincere thanks for department member Mrs Kate Beecroft MHK, who has the political responsibility for Isle of Man Transport and to Mr Chris Thomas for attending the meeting and for their input throughout the evening.
This correspondence also takes into account our exchange of correspondence in May 2014.
Current bus timetable
The overall opinion of the meeting was that the current bus timetable servicing Onchan does not take into account the entire village and the parish, and that there are certainly parts of the Onchan that are now considered isolated, with extremely limited access to public transport provisions during the day and at the weekend.
Lakeside and Groudle are just two areas that highlight this situation. In my opinion, neither does the current timetable take into account the fact that over one of third (3,238 according to the Isle of Man 2011 census) of Onchan’s residents are over 55 and this figure looks set to increase in the next few years.
However, the majority of the audience felt that the current bus time servicing the business sector was sufficient, but again it is worth pointing out that this category of passenger totals 4,032 (aged 20 to 55) according again to the 2011 census.
A difference of only 794 between the two categories of passenger, but there is significant difference in the level of service currently being provided by Bus Vannin.
Access to hospital, shops, dentist and doctors
In addition, one of the main overriding concerns raised during the meeting was the fact that Onchan residents do not currently have direct to the hospital, doctors and the shops.
At the moment any appointments at the hospital for Onchan residents normally involve the expense of a taxi, support from family members or the undertaking of an additional trip into Douglas, a period of waiting around and then bus services up to the hospital. Again, many of these Onchan residents are elderly or have been involved in accidents, which require repeat visits.
On behalf of Onchan residents, I would ask that the Department of Infrastructure and the management from Bus Vannin look again at the bus timetable serving Onchan, in order to ensure that Onchan residents have direct access to the hospital in the near future.
Turning now to some of the direct comments raised during the meeting:
Bus route No 23 – a number of residents asked for the reinstatement of the No 23 service, as it was under the April 2011 timetable.
Bus route No 13 – many attending the meeting from the Groudle area felt the No 13 service is too infrequent for those living along the Groudle Road. With only three pick-up times at Groudle Glen entrance (9.25am, 12.45pm and 14.55pm) and returning journeys (11.59am and 13.09pm), the current service is just not fit purpose. Currently there is also no service at weekends and bank holidays, which could result in periods of social isolation.
A solution given was to take away the No 13 service, and instead re-route the No 3 service which currently travels between Douglas and Ramsey via the Whitebridge Road in Onchan.
A solution given included, incorporating the current No.13 service with that of the No 3 service by diverting every third No.3 service at the road junction just before the Liverpool Arms public house. This would provide a bus every 90 minutes along the costal road.
Bus route No 3 – The owner of a B & B in King Edward Road also asked whether consideration could be given to looping servicing involving the No 3 services, as many guests who come to the island do not have their own transport and require access to Douglas.
A number of residents commented on a possible introduction of a looping service going throughout the entire of Onchan, the village and the parish. Areas that should be considered in the introduction of a looping service should include, Harbour Road, Windermere Drive, Derwent Drive and Buttermere Drive. TT Race Week – residents asked if services are altered and removed because of the racing that passengers are kept informed. During the 2014 TT races the No 2 service was not in operation but there were no notces advising it had been withdrawn.
Port Erin / Port St Mary bus route – concerns were also raised as to why Onchan requires a regular bus service leaving Birch Hill Stores and finishing up in Port Erin and Port St Mary. The entire audience felt that some of these services could be better serviced looking after the urban areas of Onchan. Lakeside – no services after 6.20pm in the evening.
David Quirk MHK queried whether a clipper bus could be fed into the current No 23 service. He also felt that the No 17 and No 15 services are under-utilised. Mr Quirk also asked whether Bus Vannin could look at the service for Heywood Court and the top of Birch Hill, particularly if a decision is made to go ahead with some form of a minibus service, possibly in partnership with the third sector.
Mobile phone app and ticketing services – comments were made on these items but I note from recent press releases that Bus Vannin is already introducing additional services in respect of these items in near future.
Overall I felt it was an excellent public meeting, which highlighted a number of genuine concerns from residents that needs addressing. Fortunately, Bus Vannin has a wide variety of buses currently available, and I am sure some solutions can be found without incurring any additional costs to the department.
I hope the department and the management of Bus Vannin will review these concerns highlighted, in order to ensure that any future bus timetable takes into account the ageing population of Onchan, access to vital services as the hospital, shops and doctors. I would also ask the management to give further consideration to including more of the rural areas outside of the main village of Onchan.
On behalf of Onchan residents, I would like to thank the department and the management of Bus Vannin in advance of considering these concerns.
Rob Callister, Onchan commissioner, Abbeylands, Onchan.
A story you could not make up
Here is a story you could not make up.
Once upon a time there was a small country, not too far away, which was ruled by a group of wise old owls. (known as a Parliament of owls).
The wise old owls approved the sale of the main post office building in a town in the north of the country and then paid rent to the new owner from the town’s post office.
Eventually a beautiful nearby listed building once a courthouse, became available. This was already owned by the government run by the wise old owls so the post office was moved there and much money spent on refurbishing the listed building.
A great deal more money was then approved by the wise old owls to be spent on improving the central town area around the post office in the listed building – new road surfaces, pavements, statues, landscaping and lighting. Most townspeople agreed that the result was a great improvement and the people were grateful to the wise old owls.
Then the wise old owls had what they thought was a really bright idea to save money. They approved a move for the post office from the place where there was plenty of room for all the postal services in a beautiful listed building, which they owned, to a nearby much smaller shop where space was restricted and they would have to pay rent.
In fact the wise old owls thought it was such a good idea that they decided to do the same thing in the capital and largest town in the country and move their main post office to a small shop as well.
The people of the country began to think that the wise old owls were not so wise after all and at the next election voted in a new group.
Malcolm Kelly, Ramsey.
Don’t kill goose with golden eggs
Copy of letter to Port Erin Commissioners
As a ratepayer since 1975 and member of Rowany Golf Club for the past 44 years I was surprised and disappointed to receive two letters on Saturday, November 15, at the club.
One from the club informing members that Rowany Golf Club Ltd may be forced into voluntary liquidation on December 18. The other one from you, the commissioners.
I was also informed that all the existing members of staff had been alerted to the current situation and the likelihood of their jobs going after the winding up meeting on December 18.
Of the four employees at the club, three reside in the village and pay either rates or rent into the commissioners’ coffers.
I feel that this situation has partly been brought about by the commissioners’ inability to find a reasonable compromise to a new lease to help alleviate the present financial problem at the club.
I have been a member of Rowany Golf Club since 1969 and was one of the original club members who in 1977 voted in favour of forming a limited company and approaching the commissioners with a view to applying for the lease to maintain and run the golf course and clubhouse. The cost for the 7 year lease at that time was £2k pa. The cost of the lease for 2014 was £22k.
Since 1977, a 37-year period, various committees and members of the club have gone out of their way and at considerable cost to the club to improve what was a cafe and golf course that was not in great condition to the very attractive set-up the village has now. Most years, we have had a strong junior membership, including the current year. It is particularly pleasing that we have Tom Gandy now in the top England squad having come through our ranks and still a member here.
The improvements have enhanced the value of your property to a position that the commissioners could not have achieved without the help of the club (new clubhouse plus various extensions, new car park and the watering system for the golf course).
These are all being paid for over the course of the lease by the club with no contributions from the commissioners.
You as the commissioners have organised the planning permissions and obtained loans from banks which the club are paying back to you by way of ‘additional rent’.
If Rowany Golf Club does go into liquidation, you as commissioners are going to reap the rewards of all the hard work done by club members over the past 37 years at a considerable cost to the club but with no outlay of village funds.
On reviewing the letters I received at Rowany on Saturday, November 15, I noted that the commissioners are receiving approximately £32,500 per annum of which £22,000 is made up of rent and rates and £10,500 in sinking fund payments.
As a rate payer how can you the elected commissioners even consider letting Rowany Golf Club go into administration and losing any portion of this income when the other main amenity in the village Breagle Glen is costing us the ratepayers of the village what I believe to be £4,139 in losses for the last financial year, or are you going to turn Rowany into another Bradda Glen Cafe situation where you ended up giving it to the Manx Government for £1.
The monies that you have received from Rowany Golf Club Ltd over the past 37 years in rent and rates are in excess of £400,000. This should not be forgotten by the commissioners as this has helped support your other non-profitable enterprises.
Rowany Golf Club Ltd is an asset to the village and contributes a significant amount financially to the balance sheet. It also provides a wonderful facility for the 328 members many of whom don’t live in the village but contribute to the rates by paying their green fees and supporting the club and village traders. If Rowany Golf Club Ltd ceases to trade the whole village will suffer.
Rowany Golf Club Ltd is not a black hole that is a drain on your funds. Don’t kill the goose that laid the golden egg for you. It is the only amenity that you own that doesn’t incur a loss on the rates.
The commissioners have never had to bail Rowany Golf Club Ltd out financially in the 37 years since they were granted the lease.
It will be a sad day if Rowany Golf Club Ltd with its 119 years of history goes into administration in part due to a lack of forethought by you the commissioners who are the elected custodians of our heritage.
Kevin Walls, Port Erin.
Editor’s note: Port Erin Commissioners has offered to reduce the rent from £16,000 to £3,000 a year, break the lease from April 2015 and enter a new seven-year lease with a break option and three months’ notice.