A planning expert will be enlisted to help Castletown Commissioners plead their case in an appeal hearing into the latest plan for Callow’s Yard.
And if at the hearing, the independent planning inspector’s recommendation is to reject the plan, and this is overruled by government, the authority should consider submitting a petition of doleance.
This was the outcome of a discussion about the latest plan at Monday’s local authority meeting, which was attended by 20 members of the public.
The commissioners had also received letters and emails from members of the public saying they support the authority hiring a planning specialist.
The plan (14/00338/B) is for alterations to convert from retail to residential use properties in Arbory Street and the Fusion Bar, retaining retail on the ground floor in all except one property.
Planners refused the application due to parking.
They also said changing 8 Arbory Street from retail to residential use would ‘establish an unfortunate precedent’.
The local authority objected to the plan for similar reasons.
Cornerstone Architects has lodged an appeal against this decision.
Commissioner Colin Leather felt the cost of hiring a planning specialist could not be justified when the vast majority of the town hadn’t commented on the plan.
He said he heard ‘tons of people commenting’ about previous plans to convert Callow’s Yard to residential use, but very few regarding this latest plan.
Commissioner Kevin Weir disagreed and said there had been overwhelming feedback on the plan.
They had a ‘clear mandate’ from the public to oppose the plan at public meetings, said commissioner David Parnell.
He added he did not have the expertise to appear at an appeal hearing.
‘For me to say I know anything about planning law is a complete nonsense.’
Commissioner Alwyn Collister said: ‘There are people who want to see some activity and have worries it [Callow’s Yard] will be boarded up because we objected to everything.
‘Whether we like it or not, we need to make a professional decision.’
Castletown rate payers should not responsible for ‘bailing out’ a failed development, said commissioner Andrew Thomas.
He added: ‘Sarah Corlett, the planning officer, recommended acceptance of the plan.
‘I do not feel comfortable leaving it in the hands of the planning department when their planning officer recommended acceptance.
‘We need the best planning advice that we can get.’
Mr McAleer said at the public meeting the public had given its approval for the board to spend money on the appeal hearing.
He added: ‘The planning laws should be changed, the fact someone can put in plan after plan has got to stop. There should be a period of a year between them.’
Thirty-seven plans in total have been submitted for Callow’s Yard.
Mr Thomas is ‘concerned’ that the appeal hearing decision could be overturned by the minister is charge of planning, Laurence Skelly MHK.He felt there was a will in the Department of Economic Development to support the plan. If it is approved, he said: ‘I think we should be prepared for a petition of doleance. That’s a real threat.’
He added the hearing date has been deferred and will be in July or August.
‘Is it deliberate because then people are away?’ he asked. ‘If it is by design or accident I’m not sure. I’m cynical enough to think it’s design.’