Decision time for £70m hotel

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GOVERNMENT may have to go back to the drawing board over the redevelopment of the bus station site, MHKs were told.

Infrastructure Minister Phil Gawne told the House of Keys that his department had reached agreement in principle with developer Askett Hawk (IoM) Ltd and was currently waiting for views from ‘relevant government departments and agencies before making any decision on how to proceed’.

Askett Hawk was named as the preferred developer for the multi-million-pound quayside hotel scheme in January 2006 and was granted a controversial 999-year lease for the Lord Street site in March 2008.

The £70 million redevelopment of the bus station site was to include a 124-bedroom four-star Radisson SAS hotel together with retail units, quayside restaurants and 70 apartments.

Mr Gawne described the scheme as ‘politically sensitive’ and pledged to bring it back to Tynwald before it was given final approval.

He added: ‘The only reason a decision hasn’t been taken is because I want the views from government departments to proceed or effectively go back to the drawing board and start again.’

David Cannan (Michael), who had criticised Askett Hawk from the outset as a £2 shelf company with no track record in construction, said: ‘In the last three years nothing has been achieved except talks with a £2 company that was never ever going to go anywhere.’

Mr Gawne said if his department did have to go back to the drawing board it would be with a different developer.

He said the legal advice from the attorney general’s chambers was that the government could withdraw from the agreement at no cost, although it was ‘inevitable’ that the developer would try to extract money from the department.

‘The advice we’ve been given is that we can walk away if we choose to.’

He told MHKs that the amount spent on the project so far was £270,000 and since his department had taken over its day to day management no further expenditure had been incurred although it was estimated that £6,000 worth of officer time had been dedicated to the scheme.

Mr Gawne said if the department did walk away from the agreement, it had to be bear in mind the considerable amount of effort put into the project so far.

Bill Malarkey (Douglas South) quizzed the minister over the decision to terminate the contract with Douglas Corporation to run the car park on the former bus station site.

Mr Gawne said the decision was taken purely as a cost saving. ‘We believe we can run it more effectively,’ he said.

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