A VISITOR to the island who ‘fell in love’ with Port St Mary railway station building is planning to convert it into three flats to let as holiday accommodation.
John Bunyan, who lives in Southampton but is moving to the island in the summer, said when he first visited the island as a 14-year-old in 1975 he came for the steam trains. And he’s been coming over continually ever since.
‘I was on holiday in the summer and I saw and I fell in love with this building, well to be fair, I have done with the island,’ he said. ‘For me it’s a fantastic place and the opportunity there could be fantastic.
‘I’m not a fast lane business man, far from it. This is never going to be a mega money earner. But I like the railways and had an interest in that as a kid. I love the trams, bikes, the whole place.’
He said the railway building is a ‘one off opportunity’ in the island to have holiday accommodation so close to the railway. He is leasing the building from the owners, the Department of Community, Culture and Leisure.
There will be three, two-bedroomed flats, sleeping six and the ground floor apartment will be suitable for disabled use.
The booking hall will be retained and he’s to retain and refurbish the exisiting station master’s accommodation and public facilities.
‘There are loads of Victorian guest houses, but they are not suitable for disabled people. I’m not doing this because anyone in my family is disabled, it just makes sense. It’s a nice thing to do.’
The local authority welcomed Mr Bunyan’s application (11/00180) last week because, if approved, it will bring a disused building that is an important element in the village’s history back into use. The commissioners also said tourist accommodation ties in with the south west regeneration committee’s plans to attract tourists to the villages.
Built in 1898, the station was once a hive of activity used by thousands of visitors and locals as the railway was the main artery route to other areas of the island.
Developers Street Heritage planned to convert the building into flats and hoped to have them done in 2009. But talks between them and the department stalled and the deal fell through.
The local authority has been pushing for some action on the building since then and last year asked if the Department of Community Culture and Leisure would consider it for social housing.
The department’s director of transport Ian Longworth said it would not be able to fund a joint venture ‘other than to provide the fabric of the building’.
Mr Bunyan runs a tool importing business and a pub in Romsey, near Southampton, and will pass both businesses over to his sons John and Joe to run after he moves to the island.
He said: ‘Seventy-five per cent of this came from my heart not from my head, from a business point of view it is probably not that good, at the end of the day I did some figures and potentially it will work out . . . I cannot wait.
‘I have been so lucky. I just feel from a personal point of view I just love being there.’