PROPOSALS to relocate Lord Street bus station to Victoria Street, Douglas, have met with a frosty reception from the street’s businesses.
Last week marked the beginning of a two-month consultation period on the £250,000 proposal. Many business owners have so far had no input on the plans, which include a canopy cover running the length of the north side of the street from Barclays Bank to the promenade.
Richard Strivens has an investment company which owns the Victoria Street building which houses Dandara’s Heritage Homes sales and marketing suite. He has already made a complaint.
‘When plans like this are announced without consulting first, it has more of an adverse effect than they realise,’ he said. ‘We’re trying to rent out one of the upper floors of the premises, but with this new uncertainty potential tenants are holding off, waiting to see if they’ll end up with a bus station on their doorstep.’
Mr Strivens said too little information had been made available.
‘If the idea is for a canopy, I want to know things like the drainage plans. Our location and glass front was done with the idea that people had a good clear view of our premises.’
Speaking last week at the unveiling of the proposal, director of highways Richard Pearson said that coffee shops in the immediate area ‘would welcome the extra business’, but Jason Lowe, director of Coffee Republic which opened on the street three months ago, said: ‘Our selling point is our wide-open front, and the extra outdoor seating. If the bus station went ahead here, with the fumes and the noise we would have to close the front opening.’
He added: ‘We’d love the idea of a bus station somewhere on Victoria Street, only if it wasn’t right outside our premises.’
Referring to the proposal of a single canopy along the length of the street, in favour of a row of eight individual bus shelters, Mr Lowe said: ‘It’ll never happen. We’ve been here before with the suggestions of a canopy for Strand Street.’
Plans for the design of such a canopy will depend on the outcome of the consultation period. Indications so far are that it would either consist of a glass roof, or more likely the modern ‘sail’ design, as seen at the redeveloped Bowl Stadium.
If the public opted for it, Mr Pearson also revealed the proposal could grow to a £3 million project to re-pave the entire street with high-quality granite.
Even so, the manager of another Victoria Street business, who did not wish to be named, said the proposal ‘wouldn’t be ideal’, and if plans did go ahead they should be concentrated on the lower, quieter, part of the street.
Last week Mr Pearson also admitted that the plans could prove unpopular with taxi drivers, as the existing taxi rank would be suspended, with plans for a replacement on the promenade.
Taxi driver Billy Crowe said: ‘Losing Victoria Street would have a big detrimental effect on the trade. It is the main rank, and the promenade is too far out from the office district.’
Fellow driver Lee Grange agreed: ‘I have no objection to a bus station, but any plans need to accommodate what is already there. Where will the taxis go? It would be especially missed on Friday and Saturday nights, the bars are concentrated around this part of town.’
Mr Pearson had reported that consideration was given into making Victoria Street open for bus and taxi traffic only, though they were dismissed in light of the street’s importance as a traffic link.
Also speaking at last week’s unveiling public transport director Ian Longworth said of the current Lord Street arrangement: ‘It’s an unsuitable temporary measure. It is dingy, there’s no information and there’s no supervision. The driver and passenger welfare facilities are not good enough.’
However not everyone would be happy to see it go.
Robin Watterson, owner of The Caff and adjacent Pies to Go on Lord Street, said: ‘We’d prefer it to stay around here, it will definitely affect business, about 15 per cent of our trade derives from footfall from the buses. And my concern about the Victoria Street plans is the width of the road, a lot of traffic goes down there anyway.’
Mr Watterson remained positive. ‘The Lord Street developments could smarten up the area and be good for business,’ he said. ‘We’ve been here for 12 years and we’ll be here for 12 more.’
Members of the public also aired their concerns to the Examiner.
Colin Magee of Douglas has recently received his bus pass and regularly makes use of public transport.
‘I’d be happy to be jumping on and off in a central location, but it’s hard to see how it won’t cause congestion here. All of the cars from Marks and Spencer car park have to turn left onto the street.’
Pensioner Val Jones of Governor’s Hill was more optimistic.
‘If it fits into the street, then it is better than Lord Street. It’s central and not too far to walk, especially with shopping bags.’
Douglas’s Margaret Brown had mixed feelings.
‘It would be very handy as a walking passenger, but as a motorist, it would probably be a nightmare.
‘A compromise would be the bigger space around the Sea Terminal. They say it is too far to walk, but it could act as an interchange. People can still hop on and off at Victoria Street stops.’
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