Lord Street hotel plan collapses

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THE plug has been pulled on a long-awaited 4-star quayside hotel development earmarked for the bus station site in Douglas.

Developer Askett Hawk failed to submit a planning application for the scheme in time to meet the January 31 deadline.

Infrastructure Minister David Cretney MHK told Tynwald that, as a result, his department would submit a paper to the Council of Ministers recommending the termination of the development agreement.

He said his officers would now be looking to develop a masterplan for the redevelopment of the lower Douglas area, including the former bus station site.

Mr Cretney was giving a written reply to a question from Middle MHK Howard Quayle who also tabled a motion for debate calling for any redevelopment of the Lord Street site to include a bus interchange – and for CoMin to report back by October with plans for an appropriate scheme.

Askett Hawk was named as the preferred developer for the £70 million scheme in January 2006 and was granted a controversial 999-year lease for the Lord Street site in March 2008.

The plan was to include a 120-bedroom 4-star hotel, 60 serviced flats and restaurants overlooking the inner harbour, plus 24 retail and leisure units on Lord Street, together with 150 car parking spaces.

It would have meant relocating the present bus station.

But a search for alternative site drew a blank – with much-criticised proposals to relocate to Victoria Street having now been dropped.

Mr Quayle described the hotel scheme as an ‘absolute white elephant’ that had been ‘doomed from the start’. ‘It just didn’t stack up,’ he said.

‘And the contract made no provision whatsoever for an alternative bus station. We need to have a bus station back on Lord Street.

‘Of the alternative sites considered, the Villiers site would cost too much money, Victoria Street proved to be stupid idea and the Sea Terminal is just too crowded.’

Mr Quayle said he would like to a see a ‘modest’ scheme involving a two-lane bus interchange on Lord Street, with an information desk, waiting room and toilets and ‘maybe a little cafe’.

Related article: Rethink urged on bus station

In his reply, Mr Cretney said: ‘Askett Hawk had advised by letter on December 20 last year that they were prepared to submit a planning application for the whole site, on the understanding that while the site for the hotel, apartments and some additional retail use could be “ring fenced” until conditions permitted the delivery of the 4-star hotel, they were prepared to undertake retail and leisure [cafes and restaurants] development on part of the Quayside and Lord Street with some apartments.

He added: ‘It is the department’s opinion that this is outside of the requirement of the terms of the Development Agreement approved by Tynwald. The company was therefore advised that they either had to proceed with the development as envisaged in the Development Agreement or, if the company did not believe at the present time this was possible, to advise if they wished to withdraw from the Development Agreement.’

In Tynwald, Community, Culture and Leisure Minister Graham Cregeen MHK was asked how much had been spent on aborted plans to move the bus station to Victoria Street.

He replied that £750 had been spent on mock-up drawings and £30 on printing display boards.

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