Projections for population growth used to allocate future housing land in the strategic plan may not have been the best available.
That’s the view of Paul Craine, author of the recently published Isle of Man Population Atlas, who points out that the island’s population has actually fallen for three consecutive years - and land for housing may have been over-allocated as a result.
The new-format Council of Ministers’ report for the first quarter of 2016 provides further evidence that the population is no longer growing but is static at around 85,000. This reflects a significant change from years of growth recorded before 2011. The 2016 Census is expected to confirm this.
Mr Craine believes if such population estimates - up to March 2015 – had been made available at the time of the Draft Strategic Plan 2015 inquiry in September last year, they might have had a significant impact.
The planning inspector refused to permit interrogation of the 2011 projections which showed an expectation, entirely plausible in 2011, that the population would reach 90,656 by 2021 and 93,526 by 2026.
On that basis, the strategic plan allocated land for 5,100 new dwellings by 2026 with 2,400 of these in the east (Braddan, Santon, Marown, Douglas and Onchan plus Laxey and Lonan).
Mr Craine said: ‘The inspector’s view that the 2011 projections were the best currently available would clearly have been untenable.
‘We are now waiting for the area plan for the East to appear. It will over-allocate land for housing and may serve to concentrate future development in the east for many years to come. It is essential that major government planning decisions are based on good, up-to-date population evidence.’
He said the projections may yet prove to be correct, if the population starts to rise again.