Hundreds objected to original promenade revamp plans

A horse tram travels along Loch Promenade in Douglas

A horse tram travels along Loch Promenade in Douglas

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The planning inspector’s decision on the £21m Promenade refurbishment scheme is not now expected until early in the new year.

A planning inquiry into the scheme was held over three days in November.

There were some 270 comments submitted - overwhelmingly critical - about the original plans and no fewer than 83 on amended proposals unveiled in August.

Controversial plans for a shared space scheme in which pedestrians and motorists would have had equal right of way have been ditched.

But the horse trams would still be relocated as a single track onto the promenade walkway although the width of the walkway in its narrowest section between the War Memorial to Queen’s Gardens has been increased for pedestrians and cyclists.

That’s not been enough to convince the objectors, however, including a number of well-known names, not least the island’s former director of highways Bruce Hannay, who said that the amended proposals do not address his ‘substantive objections’.

He wrote that the designer’s summary of significant hazards and risks is ‘particularly dismissive of the many risks that I, with my background in highway engineering and latterly for 19 years as director of highways for the island, consider as relevant’.

‘There is no consideration of the seats along the Walkway, nor of horse droppings, and the need for frequent cleansing,’ he states in his letter to the Planning Committee.

Mr Hannay said if the horse trams are to be relocated, they should run alongside the seaside pavement, and only during the summer months. ‘I conclude by again urging you to reject the amended DoI proposals for relocating the horse tram tracks to the Promenade Walkway.’

Infrastructure Minister Phil Gawne confirmed that the planning inspector’s decision was still awaited.

He said: ‘We feel the inquiry went very well. We designed the best possible scheme. If the plan is not supported, if we don’t get Tynwald approval, I suppose we have to go back to a bog standard, fairly boring and uninspiring replacement of what’s already there which solves nothing.

‘I had hoped to bring this to Tynwald by March, but it’s now more likely to be April.

‘We have done a lot of consultation but there comes a point where you have to make a decision. You are never going to please everybody.

‘Following the publication of the amended plans, objectors were given the opportunity to respond. People have strong views. I really like what we’ve done. But it’s the classic situation – how many Manx people does it take to change a lightbulb? We don’t like change! I believe we should not be blown off course because people don’t like what they think we are trying to do.’

Among the other ojectors was Douglas councillor and former Mayor David Ashford. He welcomed the abandonment of shared space principles and reintroduction of kerbs and crossings as a ‘rebirth of common sense’.

But he added: ‘I still do not agree with the placing of the horse trams on the walkway. It’s called a walkway for a reason. I continue to stand by my comments that having horse trams mix with other users such as children, cyclists and dogs exiting the beach is a disaster waiting to happen.’

Nationalist party Mec Vannin condemned the promenade scheme as a ‘profligate waste of time and money’ at its AGM earlier this year. Its secretary Cristl Jerry wrote: ‘The word promenade comes from the French verb “promener” – to walk. To share the space with horse or other trams will create physical danger to pedestrian users, particularly young children, the elderly and those with mobility problems.’

Advocate Richard Halsall said he was disappointed that the Minister had ‘further ignored public concerns and intends to place the trams on the best bit of the walkway for the public and next to a children’s playground’.

In his original letter of objection, emailed in June, he wrote: ‘To me it’s illogical that the DoI argues it isn’t safe to have trams in the road but they can safely be on the walkway next to children and other users playing, cycling, etc.

‘The department has behaved in an underhand way in lodging such an ill-prepared application to avoid the new planning system. The application is ill-advised and rushed.’

Dot Tilbury MBE wrote: ‘I am still totally opposed to the horse trams being put in the promenade walkway and I appeal to Mr Gawne and his team of planners and advisors to keep this wonderful Victorian promenade as a recreational area for safe walking, cycling and enjoyment with absolutely no fear of danger to life.’

Hilary Dugdale, former Isle of Man Film manager, wrote: ‘It doesn’t take a genius to work out that children and horses should not occupy the same space.

‘For government to allow for such an unprecedented safety risk would be reckless and irresponsible.’

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