A rail enthusiasts’ group is calling for the island’s heritage lines to be protected from large scale development.

The Isle of Man Steam Railway Supporters’ Association says the government’s review of the Isle of Man Strategic Plan could impact on the network of open and closed lines – and is urging everyone to respond to the consultation which closes on Friday this week.

This Strategic Plan is key document setting out the general policies for the development and use of land across the island.

The review, announced by Cabinet Office Minister Kate Lord-Brennan in July, will also link in to the government’s policy commitment to grow the population to 100,000 by the year 2037.

In the past 20 years the railway has seen a gradual build-up of new buildings and structures encroaching onto the railway corridor, in spite of apparently being protected in the current Strategic Plan.

The association says the big housing development at Reayrt Mie, Ballasalla, has ‘severely impacted’ the view from passing trains.

And it says a number of popular photographic points along the line such as at Ellenbrook are owned by developers – as possible so-called ‘land banks’.

A spokesman said: ‘The association is of the opinion that the railway as a whole including the closed lines should be protected from large-scale developments such as those near both Ballasalla and Castletown and the potential one at Port St Mary.

‘This is particularly relevant as the policy buzzword “biosphere” and the ongoing efforts to encourage cruise ships and other tourists to the island, all of which could be threatened by such overly-large developments.

‘The Strategic Plan is important because it is what planning department and developers work to. This is an early stage in the new Strategic Plan, but it is important as it sets the direction and scope for the review.’

The association said of particular concern to its members was what is not included in this preliminary round of consultation, given that potentially all the policies and protections in the current plan – such as protected corridors – will be discarded unless specifically brought back into scope.