It’s full steam ahead for the redevelopment of Port Erin’s historic railway station - despite concerns it’s unnecessary and the money could be better spent elsewhere.
Work has begun on the station ahead of a major regeneration scheme for the village, which is likely to cause months of disruption.
The work will involve demolition of the flat roofed annex which was once a shop unit, extension of the pitched roof, reinstatement of a belfry, refurbishment of toilet facilities, and the removal of the existing awning and its replacement with a new canopy that will wrap around the building.
Planning approval was secured in 2013 following the recommendation of a planning inspector who said the scheme would ‘substantially enhance’ the character and appearance of the station.
As part of the scheme, the village’s bus station will relocate from Bridson Street to a layby outside the station. Once passengers are dropped off and picked up outside the station, buses will return via the Promenade and Bay View Road.
Station Road itself will be reconstructed, and there will be new paving and street furniture together with a new public open space created by the railway museum. Traders are being consulted over possible full or partial road closures and suspension of parking.
The roadworks are expected to begin in September.
Regeneration Fund manager Steven Stanley said: ‘We are looking at different options and hope to have that tied up in the next week or so.’
The price tag for the regeneration works alone, including the new station canopy, is between £600,000 and £1m. But that doesn’t include the roadworks or other works to the station and railway.
But David Booth of the Isle of Man Steam Railway Supporters’ Association, said he believed the whole project for the station is ‘flawed’.
He said: ‘The new plaza area in particular will just encourage youths to congregate of an evening and increase the risk of vandalism. The majority of the proposed works are unnecessary, particularly the pitched roof extension and new canopies. The money being expended here could be better spent on areas of Port Erin which require improvement.’
Chairman of the south west regeneration committee, Infrastructure Minister and Rushen MHK Phil Gawne, said: ‘It’s taken a long time to get to this point which is frustrating.
‘A consultation four or five years ago found that people outside of Port Erin could wander round the village without finding the beach, having been dropped off some considerable distance away in a side street. Combining bus and rail with one ticket office and a single information point will save a little bit of money as well as allowing people to have better access to Port Erin.
‘The redevelopment of the station is quite exciting, and the addition of new open space is something lacking in Port Erin. It’s something different and people don’t like change. But once it’s built and people get used to it, I think they will like it.’
Meanwhile, at the other end of the railway line, work has also got underway on another controversial scheme - the redevelopment of the terminus in Douglas.
Tynwald overwhelmingly backed in March this year a £1.1m plan to stabilise and refurbish the station building.
The scheme aims to tackle subsidence and make the station more commercially viable. A shop will open on the ground floor while the restaurant and café will be moved to a new first-floor mezzanine.
An al-fresco dining area with a glass canopy is planned for the rear. Work will take 36 weeks to complete.