An independent retail expert funded by the Department of Economic Development is due to start work in Castletown ‘imminently’.
Economic Development Minister John Shimmin MHK told the House of Keys the aim ‘is to engage with key stakeholders in the town and to complete a short review of the retail and leisure opportunities in the centre of Castletown and to make some helpful recommendations to the parties’.
He said: ‘Retail policy in Castletown, especially in the Callow’s Yard development, has for some time been a contentious issue and my intention is simply to engage an experienced retail professional at reasonable cost to liaise with all interested parties to consider ideas and suggestions, and to propose solutions that will hopefully be acceptable to all concerned.’
Last month, a copy of the letter to Callow’s Yard developer Roy Tilleard was sent to Isle of Man Newspapers.
Mr Shimmin wrote: ‘I share your view that there is now an urgent need to consider how best to move forward in the best interests of all parties and to ensure that the benefits of your very significant investment in Callow’s Yard are maximised for all concerned.’
He offered to mediate ‘the process of finding an appropriate way forward’.
Mr Shimmin told the Keys the cost of the consultant, Martin Sewell, was ‘below the £2,000 figure’.
Mr Sewell has been brought in to Port Erin and helped more than 40 retailers across the island.
‘The retail sector is a major employer and the department, which is responsible for the development of retail policy, is keen to see the sector do well and individual businesses flourish across the whole island.’
He said the initiative was ‘fully in line with several government strategies’.
After a bid to convert retail to residential use was submitted for Callow’s Yard, the local authority called a public meeting in February at which 170 members of the public expressed opposition to the plans.
Since then, one plan has been withdrawn, one put on hold and another submitted to convert from retail to residential use properties in Arbory Street and Fusion Bar.