The government’s regeneration plans for Michael Street and Atholl Place in Peel have been approved to go ahead following an appeal, but only in part.
Having previously been rejected outright by the planning committee last November - in the wake of much opposition from local shopkeepers - an appeal was lodged in December by Peel Commissioners.
Authority to decide on this appeal was delegated by Environment Minister Geoffrey Boot to Education Minister Dr Alex Allinson, who made the decision this week.
He decided that in respect of the appeal, the part of the reconstruction/regeneration works relating to Atholl Place should be approved, but those parts relating to Michael Street should be refused.
This split decision for ’Atholl Place only’ had been directly requested by the commissioners in their letter of appeal to the planning department.
One of the planning committee’s main reasons for justifying the initial refusal of the plans was that introducing a ’shared surface’ (i.e the removal of kerbs) for pedestrians and vehicles would not result in a ’safe environment’ for the users of Michael Street.
When the commissioners appealed, spokesman Derek Sewell noted this and pointed out that the plans for Atholl Place were ’of a more traditional design’ which retained kerbstones.
In addition, he added that though Michael Street and Atholl Place were adjacent to each other, they are ’very different in character’ and have a different function.
The second main reason for the planning committee’s original refusal was that the plan’s introduction of a shared surface with new materials would ’fail to preserve the unique character and appearance of the street scene’.
In appealing, the commissioners spokesperson again pointed out that the proposed Atholl Place design does not include a shared surface, but rather ’retains and widens existing footways which are completely segregated from the rest of the carriageway through the use of traditional natural stone Peel granite kerbs’.
Details of the material for these replacement kerbstones will now need approval by the planning department in ’the interests of preserving the character and appearance of the Peel Conservation Area’.
Rain gardens will also be added to Atholl Place, along with another blue badge parking space.
Under planning regulations, the development must now go ahead within four years.
Shopkeepers on Michael Street had previously told the Manx Independent that while they agreed with the need for the regeneration plans in principle, that a closure of the road for nine months would be catastrophically disruptive to business.
Laura Lewis, of Atholl Place Collectables, is disappointed that the ’totally disruptive’ plans are going ahead.
The businesswoman, who has operated in the town for 20 years and was opposed to the plans last year on the grounds that they would affect business, reiterated that ’Peel doesn’t have enough to begin with’.
Mrs Lewis also pointed out that even though the works on Michael Street are not going ahead, it would still be very disruptive to the businesses on Michael Street as one of its two main entrances, at Atholl Place, will be closed off.
As for the plans to replace the kerbstones, Mrs Lewis said that it was ’hardly worth bothering’ with this, adding that it would cause issues for the businesses on Atholl Place which have cellars.
She still anticipates having to close her shop when the works start.
Stuart Hardingham, of Simpsons in Michael Street, was originally opposed to the plans and remains so, pointing out that the parking disruption will still be there and so businesses on Michael Street will still be affected.
’It works out as the same problem, but maybe it won’t go on for as long,’ he said.
He also described the plans as being ’completely over-engineered’ and there being ’not any great need’ for them.