We remain committed to finding a new lease of life for Knockaloe Farm as a retail and leisure site - while protecting features dating back to its time as an interment camp.
That was the message from Environment, Food and Agriculture Richard Ronan as he was quizzed in Tynwald by former Glenfaba MHK David Anderson MLC over what progress there had been in finding a new future for Knockaloe since a public meeting was held 15 months ago.
Mr Ronan said having met with commissioners, the Captain of the Parish, interested parties, local groups and held public meetings, his department had considered all opinions and it was proposed to seek an anchor tenant with an interest in establishing a new use for Knockaloe Farm which had links to its agricultural, educational and heritage status.
He told the court: ‘Acknowledging this, the department remains committed to establishing a new retail and amenity activity for the site.
‘Towards that aim, we have been working with Liverpool University to establish a statement of significance for the whole of Knockaloe Farm. This will identify key features and buildings relating to the previous use as an internment camp, which need to be afforded appropriate protection whilst developing the new activities.’
He said this information will be included in an information pack to be circulated to interested parties in the New Year, so that they can take account of it in their business plans.
The information pack will be circulated to the Captain of the Parish, commissioners and local MHKs prior to being advertised, Mr Ronan said.
He said there is an ‘ongoing interest’ from a number of individuals and groups which will be ‘worked up’ through the procurement process.
The Minister said part of the brief for the statement of significance was to consider where footpaths or routes should be introduced around the farm to allow visitors to view key areas without affecting the viability of the land for a wide range of purposes.
He said discussions have already been held with the Department of Infrastructure on one specific route but ‘it was felt wise to designate a package of routes rather than pursuing a piecemeal approach’. It is hoped that proposed routes will be published in the spring, he said.
Mr Anderson pointed out that the first public meeting was 15 months ago. He sought an assurance that a decision would be made before the end of this parliament.
Mr Ronan said nobody was more disappointed than himself at the time it was taking but he was ‘determined to see something happening to Knockaloe which is one of the island’s treasures’. ‘I am onto this,’ he told the court. He said he saw the internment camp as ‘the heart of the process’.