Isle of Man businesses hit by planning uncertainty

PC World/Currys is set to move into this site at Spring Valley

PC World/Currys is set to move into this site at Spring Valley

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PLANNING policy regarding the establishment of out of town businesses needs clarification.

That’s the call from Isle of Man Chamber of Commerce chief executive Mike Hennessy.

He said ‘the lack of certainty’ afforded by current legislation was having a detrimental effect on business.

Mr Hennessy said: ‘The lack of certainty – and therefore need for clarification – in my view is preventing further investment by businesses in one direction or the other.’

Business policy five of the Isle of Man Strategic Plan states on land zoned for industrial use, permission will only be given for industrial development or for storage and distribution.

Retailing will not be permitted except where either the items to be sold could not reasonably be sold from a town centre location because of their size or nature; or the items to be sold are produced on the site and their sale could not reasonably be severed from the overall business.

It must be demonstrated sales would not detract from the vitality and viability of the appropriate town centre shopping area.

Mr Hennessy said Chamber of Commerce members held a ‘strong, albeit maybe not unanimous view’ that the sale of non-bulky goods should not be allowed outside town centres.

He said when considering future policy, ‘the impact upon the future vitality and viability of our towns must also be considered’.

The most recent case which has brought the issue to the forefront was Dixons Retail’s plans for a PC World/Currys Store, at Spring Valley Industrial Estate, in Braddan.

It has been advertising for staff for the store, next to Pets at Home, despite recently being refused permission to incorporate a 634 square metre mezzanine floor in the existing unit.

Mr Hennessy said a number of members were ‘mindful of the potential impact upon business – the market is, after all, finite’. But he said most believed they offered a ‘balance of competitive pricing and service/after sales service which is vital to many customers on the island’.

A forecast turnover for the proposed store was £7.1m. Douglas Council’s policy and resources committee has previously said turnover for all electrical retailers in the island was about £10 million so the impact from the new development would make a significant dent in their overall sales.

The Isle of Man Development Company was granted approval in principle on appeal in 2011 to demolish unit six on the Spring Valley estate, and build the two retail units. Planning consent was subject to restrictions including a 1,672 square metre limit on the maximum retail floor space and on the types of goods to be sold. Currys’ range includes TVs, washing machines, cookers, and laptops. PC World sells laptops, iPads and accessories.

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