Historic countryside could be developed

Ballakilmartin Farm

Ballakilmartin Farm

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Picturesque farmland on the edge of Onchan village could end up being developed for housing if a proposal by a local MHK is accepted.

Onchan MHK Peter Karran has contacted Onchan commissioners suggesting land at Ballakilmartin Farm, bordering Whitebridge Road on the northern end of the village, be bought by government.

If the suggestion were followed up it could then be ‘banked’ and, if appropriate, developed for housing at some point in the future.

‘I have written to the government to see if they will strategically land bank it,’ Mr Karran said.

‘It could be important for the growth of Onchan and the housing crisis we have got. I want to see some long-term strategic policy on this, which is contrary to what they are doing at the moment.’

So far Mr Karran said he had written to Onchan commissioners and to the governement with his proposal. He has also contacted Manx National Heritage to find out if they would be interested in taking the farm over as a heritage site.

‘I have been in contact with the museum about buying part of it in order that the actual farm buildings are preserved as it is the most accurate representation of what a Victorian farm looked like. It has not really changed in the past 200 years,’ he added.

So far Mr Karran said he has received no response on the proposals from any of the parties he has approached.

The land around the farm is currently zoned for agricultural use, not for building.

‘There would be a planning process to go through,’ Mr Karran said.

‘And it would probably require a revision to the Eastern development plan but if a good reason can be put forward in favour of redesignation it can be done.

‘People will complain about losing Manx countryside but we need to think of people who are less well off and don’t have homes to live in.’

Onchan commissioners’ chairman Rob Callister said it was not unusual to buy up parcels of land when they became available, with a view to possible future development.

‘For example on a large piece of land it would be possible to create something similar to the Birch Hill estate, but I personally think that area of land may take too long to develop,’ he said.

Commissioners’ clerk Malcolm Hulme also said the government or sometimes the local authority would buy land with a view to possible use in the future. In many instances such land may be rented out over a period of time, pending any future development.

‘There are various parcels of land around Onchan that may or may not be available for future development,’ he said.

‘Such as the old gas works on School Road and the old Fine Furnishings property on Marion Road. That will probably be flattened in the future and turned into social housing. We have bought the old police station and that is currently being developed into flats.’

Former Isle of Man Newspapers’ farming correspondent Harvey Briggs, who owns the farm, said the property and land was currently up for sale. He said he was aware that Mr Karran had suggested the site be taken over and preserved by Manx National Heritage.

‘I don’t really want to say too much about it at the moment,’ he said.

On the subject of developers possibly using some of the land to build on, he added he would take a philosophical view on it.

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