A Castletown resident has expressed disbelief after the minister responsible for planning overruled the recommendation of two reports and approved the development of a new estate near Castletown.
Permission in principle for a residential development of up to seven houses at Netherby, on Douglas Road in Malew, was approved on August 14 following an appeal.
Permission was granted by Infrastructure Minister Phil Gawne MHK despite two planning reports that each recommended the application was refused.
Neil Walls, a resident of Brookfield Avenue in Castletown whose home adjoins the Netherby site, said: ‘I’m beginning to wonder if there is any point in having a planning and building control system when a Minister can effectively overrule and disregard a conclusive recommendation formulated by an independent planning inspector.’
Netherby is a one hectare plot adjoining Brookfield Avenue, which is diagonally opposite the Manx Aviation and Military Museum.
It retained its designation as ‘open space’ in the Area Plan for the South, approved by Tynwald in 2013, and was not designated for development. The area is considered to be part of the ‘Green Gap’, intended to separate Castletown from business park areas.
Netherby’s owner Philip Richards submitted an application in March for permission in principle for the redevelopment of the plot to create an estate of up to 20 residential properties.
The application was refused in part because any development would undermine the Southern Area Plan.
In her report, senior planning officer Sarah Corlett said that ‘to approve development which would be contrary to such a recently adopted plan would undermine the provisions of the plan and the weight which can be afforded to it.’
In a second report following an appeal, planning inspector Alan Langton agreed with the original finding.
He concluded: ‘As things stand, the appeal development is contrary to the development plan, development there in isolation would be harmful, and a decision contrary to the Plan is not warranted by the present circumstances.’
Mr Langton’s report also suggested a series of conditions should the Minister choose to disagree and approve the development, including a limit of seven properties.
Mr Gawne granted permission in principle, with these conditions, on August 14. A letter explaining the decision cited Mr Langton’s report which stated that the Area Plan does not absolutely discount future development in the Green Gap, and agreed with Malew Parish Commissioners’ suggestion that a maximum of seven plots should be approved.
Mr Walls expressed astonishment at the decision: ‘I am reminded of the Emperor Caligula exacting a “thumbs up” or “thumbs down”, depending on the phase of the moon.’
‘This action undermines the central tenet of the plan, which is to deliver a comprehensive legal framework for future development.’
He continued: ‘It also sets a dangerous precedent, as any individual who owns a large garden in the countryside which is classified as ‘open space’ can effectively apply for a development order.
‘In my view this decision is nothing less than a blatant disregard both for the Area Plan for the South as ratified by Tynwald and ordinary members of the voting public.’