THE ‘desperate need for housing’ has persuaded Port Erin Commissioners to revise its previous opinion that the land at Ballakilley be retained for entirely recreational use.
Despite their previous view the land is exclusively for recreation, the modified draft Southern Area Plan plan includes provision for housing – less than in the first draft plan – as well as recreational use.
When discussing the plan last week, Justin Unsworth said: ‘We have had the view there should be no building, but that depends on how pragmatic you want to be given the need for housing and affordable housing in the village, and the way it has softened the edge is acceptable, there is green belt.
‘We should reiterative very strongly that there be low density housing and that should be rigorously enforced.’
He added there should be more specific designation of the use of field 414546 otherwise people will ‘start arguing over that field and start grabbing’.
The field is designated on the plan to be access from Church Road to any residential area that’s eventually built.
Also, the land should be developed ‘as a single item’ and not in a ‘piecemeal’ fashion.
Commissioner Nick Watterson asked how would a development of low density housing also be affordable?
Mr Unsworth conceded they suggest medium density housing, but that could ‘still be affordable’.
The Southern Area Plan states Port Erin should have another 133 residential units in Port Erin, but the commissioners queried where would they go?
There are brown field sites said commissioner Anne Kelly and there will be ‘more apartments and less houses’.
But Mr Watterson said flats are not necessarily affordable for first time buyers and some are ‘small and pokey and not a property people would like to move into’.
He called on the board to be ‘less blinkered’ about the design of proposed properties as Port Erin is already ‘a mismatch of design’.
The Southern Area Plan’s assessment of tourist accommodation is incorrect, said commissioner Jean Pierre Depin. The Castletown Golf Links is closed and the Cherry Orchard is not a tourist hotel but apartments. ‘All we have [in Port Erin] is the Balmoral, Grosvenor and Falcon’s Nest.’ He questioned the plan’s statement that hotels are no longer commercially viable and said: ‘Hotels were viable but they did not make enough money for the owner.’
Mr Watterson questioned the department’s role in encouraging hotels to be viable. ‘They keep going on about them being commercially unviable. I could make something commercially unviable if I wanted to and not put any investment in … why not insist that “x” amount of revenue is ploughed back in? They [hotel owners] get a better profit by selling it for development. I propose we would like the planners to explain how they go about proving a hotel was commercially viable or unviable if the owner decided to close.’
Mr Watterson proposed they ‘express disappointment the department does not go further than accept that hotels close with little intervention.’
He said he is also disappointed that the harbour improvement scheme in Port St Mary is ‘the only other thing being offered (in the south) for development’.
The commissioners will also ask for more information on why the land below Bradda West Road was rejected as a site for first time buyer housing.
Also Mr Watterson took the opportunity to make a general criticism of the standard of finishes of some new developments he said there are ‘rusting balconies, cracks in rendering, developments that have been there for five years are worse than buildings that have been there for 105 years.’ He suggested planners also consider materials being used in a development.