A local authority has been told by the government’s Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) that it will be blocking vehicle access to its new £10m leisure centre.

On Monday this week a letter from the department gave Braddan Parish Commissioners 28 days notice of its plans to ‘restrict vehicular access to the Roundhouse via the (Noble’s) hospital estate’ - read the DHSC’s response here.

The Roundhouse facility in Braddan, which includes a cafe, playground, sports hall, nursery and health facilities, is £3.4 million over budget and was originally meant to be open and completed in August 2023.

Work on the scheme started in June 2021 and parts of the facility opened just weeks ago.

The leisure centre is still undergoing a phased opening and the whole project is thought to have cost around £10m to complete.

Commissioners originally planned to build a new access road to the facility while the centre was being built.

However, that scheme was eventually ditched and during the planning phase of the project, Braddan Commissioners provided a copy of a letter to the Planning Committee from the then Department of Health and Social Care Minister Howard Quayle in August 2016 granting customers access to the facility via the hospital grounds.

Mr Quale said in the letter that the ‘department (DHSC) fully supports this proposal without reservation’.

In August 2023, the local authority says it wrote to the DHSC, confirming its plans for permission customers to access the Roundhouse using the existing Ballaoates Road, which leads through Noble’s Hospital grounds.

This was a decision made due to lack of finances.

But on December 19 last year, the local authority says it was ‘shocked’ by a ‘last minute decision’ by the DHSC’s decision to refuse vehicle access to the facility via the hospital’s grounds.

Commissioners say they then entered into correspondence with the department about placing new signs along the route as part of an informal agreement. The latest letter from the DHSC sent to Braddan Commissioners earlier this week says: ‘the department is not satisfied that sufficient measures have been, or could be, put in place to address the risks identified by Manx Care’.

It went on to say that ‘regretfully we are therefore, through this letter, providing 28 days’ notice of our intention to restrict vehicular access to the Roundhouse via the hospital estate’.

The department says it has sought legal advice on the matter.

However, Braddan Commissioners say that they have been told that the 2016 e-mail from Mr Quayle is a ‘legal document’ granting customer vehicle access.

According to commissioners, the issue will affect potential businesses interested taking up space in the Roundhouse.

At present, they can’t sign leases and therefore cannot start trading until the access issues have been resolved, according to the local authority.

Andrew Jessopp, chairman of Braddan Commissioners, said that the authority has been issuing licences to the businesses in the facility already, and they can operate without a lease, but have been given legal advice not to issue leases to tenants while this access issue ‘hangs over’ the facility.

He added: ‘This could be a significant problem for some of our tenants if they don’t have vehicle access to the site’.

It is currently not known how the DHSC plan to stop vehicular access to the site from March 4.

It is understood that access to the Roundhouse will still be available for Braddan Commissioners staff and contractors working on the site after the March 4

The Roundhouse’s access issues comes after Braddan ratepayers were told that will have to pay the largest rate increase of all the local authorities on the island from April.

Residents have been hit with a 36.6% rise in rates for the 2024/25 financial year.

A spokesman for the DHSC said: ‘The safety of people using the hospital site and the smooth operation of the hospital is the Departments primary concern. 

‘In 2016 planning permission was originally granted which included access to the site via the existing private roads.

‘Several years have passed, and in early 2022 it was flagged by the Department that access via that route would no longer be suitable due to the increased traffic. 

‘In 2023 a new planning application for a dedicated access road was submitted and approved in May.

‘We have since worked constructively with the Commissioners and prioritised the conveying of land from the Department to the Commissioners – at less than market value – for the construction of a dedicated road. 

‘In late 2023 the Commissioners informed the Department that they did not intend to proceed with this dedicated access due to financial constraints. They proposed some safety measures to try and address the concerns raised about using the existing roads. These measures were reviewed and were not considered rigorous enough to provide proper safeguards or alleviate issues.

‘The Department is very clearly still supportive of the project, but will not compromise on the safety of service users and access for emergency services, and has confirmed that shared use of the current roads is not suitable.

‘From 4 March no vehicular access to the site will permitted.’