DOUGLAS Development Partnership’s board is firmly opposed to proposals to relocate the main Douglas bus station in Victoria Street.
The board views Victoria Street as one of the finest thoroughfares in Douglas with its imposing Victorian architecture, which would be ‘severely compromised were this proposal to proceed’.
It does, however, applaud the government for initiating a much-needed and long overdue debate about public transport provision in the town.
Development manager Chris Pycroft said: ‘Although the board agreed unanimously that to site a bus interchange facility in Victoria Street would severely damage the town centre commercially and aesthetically, it was at one with the government’s view that there is an urgent need for a new bus station in Douglas.
‘As town centre regeneration gathers pace and becomes a reality, improving the street scene, and as events such as the hugely successful Festival of Youth and food and craft fair demonstrate, the potential to create a more vibrant, welcoming and inclusive Douglas becomes all the more apparent. But it’s not just about bringing fun back into the town centre, it’s about projecting a positive image to attract more investment and business to Douglas and the Isle of Man.
‘It’s against this background that we believe the regeneration prospects for Victoria Street, one of the finest thoroughfares in Douglas with its imposing Victorian architecture, would be severely compromised were this proposal to proceed.’
The partnership is also of the view that the new facility must be beneficial to the town not only operationally but also environmentally, encouraging people to choose public transport.
In its written response to the government consultation document to re-locate the bus facility to Victoria Street, the partnership expresses concerns over ‘increased traffic and vehicle manoeuvres resulting in a noisier, busier street’ and attendant inconvenience to pedestrians.
Mr Pycroft said the ‘full economic impact’ of the proposal had not been taken into account. ‘Victoria Street has recently seen considerable private sector investment in premises such as Coffee Republic, Artisan and the Bath & Bottle and, as the role of the town centre continues to evolve as a result of changes in the wider retail environment, it is leisure businesses such as these that will become increasingly important to the life blood of the town centre. Artisan and Coffee Republic in particular have made maximum use of their street frontages to create pleasant places to sit and relax.
‘Clearly this will no longer be the case should customers be forced to endure an environment of parked buses and passenger queues. At the same time, this proposal would have a detrimental effect on businesses at the southern end of Duke Street which currently benefit from passing footfall to and from the Lord Street bus facility.’
The proposed Cambrian Place and Middlemarch developments would lead to the existing Lord Street location becoming ‘an even more suitable site than it is at present,’ said Mr Pycroft who added that other options, such as the Sea Terminal and Villiers Square, discounted in the consultation document, offered ‘enormous potential’ and should be revisited.
Mr Pycroft added: ‘The provision of public transport facilities is a vital component of a well-managed town centre. That facility must, however, support rather than damage the environment, operation and economy of the town centre. The partnership believes that the footfall to and around the bus station has the potential to generate economic viability where it does not currently exist and this should be factored in when considering how and where the facility should be developed.
‘We welcome, however, the opportunity extended to us by the government to enter into dialogue on this crucial matter and look forward to working in partnership to arrive at a solution that satisfies the commercial, social and environmental demands of the island’s capital.’