Plans for major alterations to Douglas’s historic railway station have come under fire from heritage campaigners.
Mike Higginbottom, a tour guide who leads history education tours in the island and UK, describes the Victorian station, designed and built in 1889-1891, as the ‘St Pancras of the island’ in terms of its ‘magnificance and significance in transport history.
He said: ‘I hope that before Douglas railway station is trashed, Manx politicians – and Manx property developers will recognise that the smart money lies in conserving the historic environment, not laying it waste.’
He added: ‘There are lots of practical examples in the UK, and a few in the Isle of Man, to prove that the best way to ensure historic buildings contribute to present and future prosperity is by treasuring and nurturing their integrity, by maintaining their intact surviving features, rather than by creating a tacky pastiche to satisfy a developer’s bottom line.’
The Department of Infrastructure has applied to remove the partitions, floors and ceilings and install a new first floor and mezzanine, staircase and lift. An expanded restaurant would be moved to the first floor, where public toilets would also be installed.
A new kitchen would be built on the ground floor in a current store room, the ticket office would become a cafe, and the current restaurant space would become a retail unit to be occupied by a tenant to increase income revenue from the building.
The department says it wants to make the railway station ‘commercially viable’.
The Courier has asked the DoI how much the scheme would cost. But by the time we went to press nobody had got back to us.
Some comments on iomtoday.co.im about the proposal were also critical of the proposal.
Stuart M said: ‘An interesting proposal, but having looked at the plans, this development is far from sympathetic to the heritage of this building. Many features will be destroyed.’
Lindenka said: ‘For goodness sake the station is not a “station” in transport terms merely the front end of a visitor attraction. Just what the building needs millions throwing at it and a WH Smith’s with a Tesco not two minutes’ away. Get a grip and stop throwing money away.’
Ed More: ‘It’s a disgrace that historic buildings in the ownership of government are allowed to deteriorate to the point where the only viable solution for repair, restoration and on-going maintenance is significant alteration, commercial sub-letting and a change of primary use.’
Barnabus Mare: ‘If you feel you must spend money, why not re lay the lines between Douglas and Peel/Ramsey. Lets open the island up so that we can see parts we don’t normally see whilst travelling. If you want to make it “commercially viable” then give us some travel options.’