A government-backed building agency has said that a lack of specialist contractors could block large Douglas development.

The Manx Development Corporation (MDC) is planning to turn a decaying nursing home on Westmoreland Road, in Douglas, into new flats.

Dane Harrop, managing director of MDC, told the Tynwald Select Committee on Built Heritage that UK surveyors have been asked to come and review the site due to a lack of the required skill workers on-island.

The work proposed would include scanning the foundations of the current building using underground radar and the validation of the finished project to fit international standards.

Mr Harrop told the committee that the specialist advice the UK experts will provide is ‘really important’ to the progress of the plans, as it identifies risks and helps control the costs of redevelopments.

He said: ‘Professionals to suitably assess those risks were essential as they influenced what could be designed for the site and its costs.’

An example of specialist work that is needed is the removal of asbestos from the current site, Mr Harrop used this to demonstrate how specialist some of the work needed on this development is.

The committee heard that ‘literally one or two’ on-island companies were capable of removing asbestos which could ‘put a strain on the development of urban and brownfield sites’.

The committee also heard that supply chain issues could halt progress on the 37-flat development as it is a larger development site.

This committee was set up to investigate ways to improve protection of historical Manx buildings.

The development’s plans were revealed earlier by the MDC, which was set up by the government to breathe life into unused sites across the island.

Mr Harrop said: ‘Planning rules around providing public open space and affordable housing, and a 5% VAT rate on re-purposing some of these buildings could also affect the viability of large scale projects.’

The nursing home is subject to 5% VAT because it has not been empty for over 10 years.

Mr Harrop added: ‘If we were to demolish that building and rebuild, it would be 0% rated but we don’t want to do that because it is an important building but construction works on very slim margin and 5% is a considerable chunk of money.’