Plans for a major revamp of Laxey station on the island’s heritage railway network have been lambasted by railway enthusiasts.
But according to the government’s Department of Community, Culture and Leisure, the criticism is premature because money is only available for track replacement; the rest of the plans are on indefinite hold.
The Manx Electric Railway Society says the plans would see installation of LED lighting, new tactile paving and stainless steel street furniture at the MER station in Laxey as part of the Laxey regeneration scheme.
Critics say the street furniture proposed is inappropriate for the historic setting which has remained largely unchanged since the station’s early days in the 1900s.
The society has described the station at Laxey as the ‘jewel in the crown of the MER’, adding the plans were likely to herald the ‘ruination of the charm, abmience and character of the Laxey station’.
Plans to relocate the historic mercury arc rectifier in another building nearer the station - where it can be on display for visitors to see - have also attracted severe criticism from the group.
‘The Government has indicated it will evict this irreplaceable piece of Manx and international heritage, missing a golden opportunity to create a unique museum in its original setting and a much-needed added attraction for both Laxey village and the island.
‘Unnecessarily moving the equipment to another building runs the serious risk of irreparable damage and will absorb much needed funding in removal and re-installation costs. If this government really cared about the island and its heritage there should never have been any suggestion to remove the equipment.’
Peter Kelly, case worker for the island’s Victorian Society questioned why the equipment couldn’t be left where it was so it remained in its historical context.
‘It seems a bit like digging up the Tower of Refuge and putting it in the Manx Museum,’ he said, adding that modern paving and street furniture, if used, risked turning the station into the equivalent of a Sainsbury’s car park.
Andrew Moore, chairman of Laxey Commissioners, said they had reviewed the proposals: ‘We had some concerns over the inappropriate nature of some of the proposals like the paving. Commissioners can make recommendations to the planners which they have chosen to disregard.’
A statement from the DCCL said both the Laxey Regeneration Committee and representatives of the Manx Electric Railway Society had had close involvement with the scheme.
‘The committee and the planning office were both informed that the specifics such as seating and lighting were purely indicative and not finalised plans. Planning permission for the scheme was granted in October 2012 but available finance dictates the only element of the scheme that is progressing is the track renewal, which is vital for safely operating the railway.’
A DCCL spokesman added: ‘Any proposal to develop other amenities in the Laxey MER Station area will only progress when funding is available and further consultation is undertaken with appropriate parties.’