Michael ‘land-swap’ plan is Trojan horse

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‘WHAT a superb learning environment. I hope these children are being encouraged to appreciate what they have here and that local residents do all they can to preserve it for future generations.’

These words came from my daughter, head teacher of a junior school in Somerset. We were standing at Douglas Road Corner, Kirk Michael, watching the children enjoying games in the school playing field with the open parkland beyond, set against the backdrop of the Michael hills.

Although she lives in an area of high landscape value, she was envious of the situation of Michael School – in the village yet with idyllic rural surroundings.

One would expect an education minister to hold similar views, but Mr Teare is bent on ‘urbanising’ the school site by encouraging a developer to build a large number of houses around the school. He appears obsessed with the idea of a ‘land-swap.’

At the time of the public meeting on whether the developer did not own the land he was proposing to give away – one assumes he had an option to buy, subject to obtaining planning permission.

Should permission be granted for say 110 houses with two or three bedrooms, some 2.16 acres of open space would have to be provided. This space to include 1.22 acres of formal space (e.g. football) 0.4 acres for children’s playgrounds and 0.54 acres for amenity space. The total area is remarkably similar to that which the developer is offering to give away.

The facilities listed are required for an estate of the size proposed, details are taken from the Island Strategic Plan 2007 – a document approved by Tynwald, supported by Mr Teare’s vote.

The Kirk Michael Local Plan also requires any development of this backland to allow for possible future extension of the school and the possible need for a by-pass road. Allocating land for these is not a gift from the developer, it is a planning requirement – it is land it cannot build on.

The developers’ strategy is one popular with those about to submit a contentious planning application – identify the probable opposition (the school and the owners of properties in Douglas Road, fronting the back-land site) and remove it. The first by conning the Education Department into believing they are getting a free gift, the second by buying their properties at inflated prices. This ‘land-swap’ is not a gift-horse, it is a Trojan horse.

The Island Strategic Plan lists many requirements, both aesthetic and technical, which provide good reasons to reject this development.

I quote just one (7.4.1): ‘In cases where development is not capable of being sensitively and unobtrusively integrated into the landscape, permission will not be granted.’

The proposed development would obliterate the landscape and if put into effect Mr Teare would not be remembered for acquiring a couple of acres for the school, but as the person who destroyed the rural setting of the school forever.

He would do well to recall Mark Antony’s funeral oration over Julius Caesar: ‘The evil that men do lives after them, the good is oft interred with their bones.’

And note there is an election in September.

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