Talks to revive development of the former marine laboratory in Port Erin are being held, Rushen MHK and Economic Development Minister Lawrence Skelly has revealed.
Two weeks ago Sea Breezes, which planned to develop their offices and library, a Marine Interpretation Centre (MIC) run by Manx Wildlife Trust (MWT), a 20-bedroom hotel and various marine-related activities at the site, pulled out because the Council of Ministers (CoMin) had rejected their ‘in detail’ planning application due to the visual impact of car parking.
‘I’m not giving up,’ said Mr Skelly.
‘I have a meeting arranged with Hamish Ross [from Sea Breezes], who is on holiday at the moment. I am going to discuss if there are any options open, I will also have a meeting with MWT to discuss options ... so I will be continuing to explore the options to realise this development for the community, whether that includes Sea Breezes and a MIC wholly or separately. I’m looking at it from a constituency and an economic development point of view.
‘I’m deeply disappointed this situation has arisen. It’s vitally important, particularly for tourism and the Isle of Man in general.’
Last week, August 5, Port Erin Commissioners stressed the failure of the Sea Breezes plan was not their fault and said they gave it their support.
‘A lot of people on social media are blaming us for not supporting it,’ said Godfrey Egee. He added the authority ‘highlighted’ some areas of concern but was ‘fully supportive’ of the plan itself.
Clerk Jason Roberts said: ‘We have interested party status, we are like the next door neighbour. Ultimately the decision is up to the planning department and CoMin.’
Nick Watterson said they should have had a meeting with Sea Breezes before they submitted the plan, to ‘talk about these things in advance and maybe come to an understanding before we sit there with a full application with no notice. It’s difficult for us to say “yes” to everything – to have that discussion would be helpful.’
Mr Roberts said that discussions might have happened before he became clerk.
Martin Norbury said: ‘Even if a plan is 95 per cent fantastic, if we felt we had a niggle we have to flag it to planning.’
Chairman Ged Power said: ‘It will be interesting to see if our local representatives [Rushen MHKs] make a comment. Any commissioners support investment in the village.
‘Maybe we should look at how strong and robust an application is and have pre-consultation [with the developer] as Nick alluded to.
‘I would like to hear from the developer why the plug was pulled.’
He said he hoped the three MHKs will, ‘do everything they can to rectify the issue.’
Steve George said: ‘At the last traders’ meeting Laurence Skelly said all is not lost.’
Will Halsall said: ‘The commissioners could be proactive rather than just put this on the three MHKs.’