Developer Heritage Homes has won a high court victory that could pave the way for the Castletown Golf Links Hotel being turned into flats.
But the ruling has dismayed members of the Derbyhaven Residents Society who have been campaigning to retain the landmark building as a hotel - and say they are very disappointed the Deemster rejected their call for a new Area Plan specifically for the Langness peninsula.
Chairman of the Society, Tim Cullen, said: ‘We have two simple and fundamental objectives in relation to Langness.
‘For years now, the Golf Links Hotel has been a neglected and deteriorating blot on the landscape. Many of us remember the time when it was a place where people from all over the island came to enjoy its restaurant and other facilities.
‘We would like there to be a hotel with a good restaurant and scope for leisure activities, thus providing benefits not just to the south, but to the whole island and to visitors, notably golfers.
‘Our other and overriding objective is to make sure that the rest of Langness has a prohibition on new residential building so that Langness remains exactly as it is, thus preserving its natural and historic characteristics.’
Mr Cullen said the Society would now seek the support of local MHKs, Manx National Heritage and other groups to have Langness designated a National Heritage Area.
In the high court, the lawyer acting for the developer described as ‘perverse and absurd’ a condition in the Southern Area Plan that does not permit new or replacement buildings in Langness unless their use is connected with the golf course.
Landscape proposal LP21 states that new or replacement buildings on Langness should not be permitted ‘except for use ancillary to the operation and use of the golf course or, in the case of the former hotel site, for hotel accommodation’.
Fort Island Developments, in which Heritage Homes owns a 50 per cent stake, purchased the Golf Links Hotel in 2012 for £2.5 million. The landmark hotel had been closed since 2007.
Derbyhaven residents and the owner of the Castletown Golf Links, Philip Vermeulen, challenged Dandara’s legal bid to quash LP21. They called for both landscape proposals relating to Langness in the Southern Area Plan to be scrapped claiming they don’t afford sufficient protection for the area.
But the developer’s advocate Tom Maher described that challenge as an ‘apparent attempt to frustrate any development’ of the hotel.
The Southern Area Plan took almost five years to get to its final form, with several consultation exercises and a full public inquiry.
In 2011, the Department of Infrastructure agreed to remove LP21 from the draft plan but at the 11th hour the provision was reinstated. In court, Mr Maher said the department had admitted this was a mistake and the insertion of LP21 was largely due to the political members preferring the views of the Derbyhaven Residents Society rather han continuing to follow the preferred course advised by the public inquiry inspector.
In his judgement, Deemster Andrew Corlett quashed LP21 saying the area would still be protected by the landscape proposals in the Area Plan and general policies for the protection of the environment, public access and heritage sites containined the Strategic Plan.
In a statement Dandara said: ‘This judgment is a clear statement that both established legal principles and good planning practice as opposed to political interference should have prevailed during the Southern Area Plan process.
‘Thankfully common sense has prevailed and the absurd and unworkable LP21 has been removed from the Southern Area Plan.’