David Cretney’s column: Charles, Daphne and Tony are right

Tuesday 17th May 2022 5:11 am
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Every week, former member of Tynwald David Cretney writes for the Isle of Man Examiner.

This column first appeared in the May 10 edition.

Well done Daphne Caine, Charles Guard and Tony Brown on your wake-up call to government and local authorities in relation to much-needed works to heritage attractions and infrastructure maintenance as we welcome guests back from around the world.

We have had a hiatus whereby a big effort should have been coordinated in order to look our best and leave a lasting impression.

Daphne was formerly the media contact in the Department of Tourism when I was minister and went out of her way to promote all that was good about our island to those from the press, television or radio who came on familiarisation trips.

Charles is renowned for the quality of his film-making and promotion of our culture, history and heritage which has put our island in such a good light for so long.

Tony has long been perhaps the most proactive political proponent of heritage and its importance to visitors and locals, stretching back to his time as chair of the Government Property Trustees in the early 1980s, when at long last due recognition of the Laxey Wheel and its environs was undertaken with support from UK experts at Ironbridge.

As a member of the trustees I witnessed first-hand his energy and enthusiasm which went on in terms of work in Peel and Castletown among others.

So these are not negative voices seeking to cause damage to the tourism industry, quite the reverse.

I am a positive person by nature and spend much of my time as a goodwill ambassador for our beautiful island and since being invited to write a weekly column in the Examiner tried to use this page mostly in that way.

However, there have been times when I have taken to raising issues of concern with varying levels of success!

In the March 9, 2021, issue I followed up a piece in the paper from 2018 in relation to litter and fly tipping.

Local authorities are legally responsible for litter and dog fouling issues in their areas and these challenges are taken on with different levels of enthusiasm depending on the authority in question.

I agree that in relation in particular to the latter the burden of proof can be very problematic and there have been suggestions of new methods of controlling this anti social behaviour.

Laziness by a minority causes issues for the majority of dog owners who do the right thing.

Perhaps, because there have been very few prosecutions, irresponsible citizens seem to think they can get away with it.

In law there is an obligation for each local authority to have a designated official with responsibility for littering matters.

Some take this matter seriously, looking around it is quite clear that not all do.

We have many island residents who work with the charitable and third sector organisations dedicated to the elimination of littering of all kinds and to recycling and reuse where possible.

As we look forward to welcoming friends back who love our Island let’s see our local authority members stepping up to the plate together with land and buildings in government ownership where with a little work we could make a big difference.

In the May 4, May 18, 2021, and February 1, 2022, issues I referred to tourism.

The creation of a Department of Economic Development made sound sense but it does appear to me that the voice of tourism has become diminished a little compared to other vitally important industries represented.

I stated: ‘We have a fabulous heritage transport network and world-class historic sites. These had been successful in the past with the correct targeted promotion but some are overdue investment or reinvestment.

‘With targeted investment, we can provide an exciting offering and take advantage of this one moment in time opportunity. Where many people are planning to take a break closer to home in the present circumstances.’

Exactly the points now being re-emphasised.

Among heritage assets featured in either the Charles Guard video, by former Chief Minister Tony Brown or by Daphne Caine in Tynwald is the Laxey Wheel, which was due for completion of works in May – now due by the end of July – with some limited access for TT visitors.

The House of Mannanan, where it is suggested a revamp is long overdue, and other attractions are presently unable to open because of staffing restrictions and budget cutbacks.

Other issues include long standing lack of maintenance of basic infrastructure, such as railings much the same as has been raised in relation to the important footpath network.

A report on that subject is to be placed before Tynwald in the time ahead.

It often seems to be the case that, when a tightening of financial resources takes place, the short-sighted decision seems to be axing maintenance. However, some of the issues raised are the result of years of neglect.

I was recently contacted with a suggestion that the House of Mannanan could be revamped with presentations on important Isle of Man features, which could work together and would be of interest to a wide audience.

Those being the Bee Gees, Radio Caroline and the TT.

We need to think ‘outside the box’ and whatever happens all such facilities need to remain fresh and appealing.

As stated previously I am by nature a positive person so the new flights being made available should be welcomed.

Also, a move away from the traditionally very poor Steam Packet waiting facilities, which are such an important part of any visit is a good move. However, it will be essential that there are good links for foot passengers.

Of much more concern is how the budget became so grossly overspent.

Who was watching as the scheme developed?

At what stage did Treasury become aware of the overspend?

Who is going to be held to account?

In many areas of the hospitality and retail sectors for example, staffing is a real issue.

In terms of the visitor experience the impression made by the interaction with helpful and friendly staff is very important.

As with other sectors, such as in construction apprenticeships, we need to ensure our young people have opportunities to be in a position to take up permanent, well-paid jobs and the training provided is vital towards this aim.

Over the years there have been so many slogans for tourism on our island, right back to Len Bond: ‘Come abroad to the Isle of Man’.

After the foot and mouth year we promoted ‘We welcome you back with open arms’. Another was ‘It’s our differences that make a difference’.

At a time when the value of visitors seeking out exactly what we have to offer in beautiful countryside, heritage attractions, closer to home short breaks, is being maximised by other destinations we need to recognise what we have and ensure it is properly maintained and valued, fit for the future and not neglected.

Our differences must not be a lack of investment.

We have seen positive announcements by the Minister for Enterprise Dr Alex Allinson and in order to make real progress a cross-government approach dedicated to the importance of tourism and working with the private sector is key to its future!

Next week … more feedback on memories from the Palace Lido and other music venues!

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