Green restaurant plans to boost island tourist trade
A look inside Dr John Taylor's 'Hobbit home' being built at Ballawoods Halt - the elliptical windows and doors are carved from limestone
Dr Taylor founded the Strix kettle controls business and has over 400 patents to his name.
He was in the process of building a new eco-friendly home straight off the pages of JRR Tolkien, having previously designed the distinctive elliptical house on the vast 280-acre estate of Arragon Mooar.
Back in April 2018, an application (PA 18/00197/B ) was approved for the replacement dwelling at Gatekeepers Cottage, situated at Ballawoods Halt.
This application offered a ‘new and unique building not seen before on the Isle of Man’.
Dubbed the ‘hobbit house’, its design was distinct in its roof coverings, in its wall finishes and in its unconventional window apertures.
This three-bedroom dwelling would feature huge corner stones inspired by Ty Hyll (The Ugly House) in the Snowdonia National Park, and a patinated copper tile roof inspired by Goldenes Dachl (The Golden Roof) in Innsbruck, Austria.
The existing Gatekeepers Cottage building at the Ballawoods railway halt has been replicated on the opposite side of the railway line, as per the planning approval and is almost complete.
However progress on the ‘hobbit house’ project has slowed.
Whilst its construction has been underway for three years, as a result of its complex and unusual design, work has been slow.
This has been further exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic, with work on site ceasing for a year.
This break in the construction programme ‘has brought about a reconsideration of the best use for the current building under construction’.
This new application seeks the approval of a new restaurant, which will be accessible by users of the Isle of Man Steam Railway, coach tourists and by all of the island’s residents and visitors.
If approved, the site would have 27 parking spaces, including two disabled parking spaces opposite the restaurant entrance door and six electric vehicle charging points.
Cycle parking and an access path for cyclists and walkers is also proposed to connect the site to nearby Ballasalla.
Coach parking would also be available.
A proposed extension to the west of the building would allow for a kitchen, situated below ground level.
Changes will also be made to the currently approved roof and finish of the building.
Dr Taylor with his team have been developing a new roof shingle, again in copper as the original application but of a new design which incorporates large hexagonal shingles embossed with the triskelion shape for extra strength and set to the vertical roof section between the elliptical roof windows.
The remaining shingles to the sloping roof elements would comprise of simpler, smaller rectangular shingles, embossed with Dr Taylor’s Bi metal element shape for extra strength.
Both shingles types would be in a patinated vert-de-gris colour as approved previously.
In a statement, Dr Taylor explained the environmental motivations behind his change in plans.
He said: ‘[The building] will be an even better tourist and local attraction for visitors and locals to see and touch the internal stone staircase, the sparkling Foxdale granite coins and the 360 million year old carboniferous limestone of the walls – similar to the stone used for Castle Rushen.
‘Two years ago I decided to sell my unique home Arragon Mooar and invest the proceeds into green energy developments in the Isle of Man that I hope will inspire other Manx residents as well as the government. My thoughts have been further motivated by the following new considerations:
‘1. In the field directly adjacent to my Ballawoods site towards Ballasalla, several hundred houses have appeared almost overnight.
‘2. The cost of the Covid pandemic has dinted the government’s financial resources so there is little money to support green initiatives.
‘3. Global warming has become an even more pressing issue that appears to have received little practical attention on the Isle of Man.
‘4. The present war in Ukraine has put into question gas supplies to Europe in general and for our Manx electrical supply from the Pulrose powerstation in particular.
‘I wish to change the use of the new Ballawoods Halt cottage from residential to become the first green restaurant in the Isle of Man and possibly the world.
‘Once complete, the housing estate in the adjoining field to Ballawoods farmland will have over 400 houses with no apparent provision for an integral restaurant.
‘The thousand or so new residents that will live in the Reayrt Mie estate are within walking distance of the new Ballawoods Restaurant.’