Every week we invite an MHK to write for us.
This article first appeared in May 3’s Isle of Man Examiner.
Part of this is reform related to the built environment.
Addressing the condition of our town centres and frustrations with the end to end planning process is urgently needed.
This is reflected in our Island Plan and I have made it a priority within Cabinet Office to bring together officers from different departments to get focus and resolution on this issue.
The Manx Development Corporation is doing some inspirational and transformative work.
To see progress from a cold start in September 2021 to a full planning application for the former nurses’ home in 14 weeks is a great achievement.
Proposals such as this, which sympathetically bring back to life former buildings in a contemporary style, with sustainability at the heart and delivering much needed housing opportunities, is an important part of our priorities.
But we must do more – and pick up the pace.
That is why Cabinet Office will bring forward proposals in July Tynwald with a view to stimulating town centre developments, unlocking potential to regenerate our towns, provide additional housing and so enhance our Island’s beauty.
A short timeframe reform programme will be proposed with some immediate quick wins, focusing on quality and vibrancy in urban living and town centre regeneration through a refreshed planning system and the sustainable development of brownfield sites.
We are already identifying the barriers to, and levers for, progress and looking at how others have tackled derelict buildings for a ‘town centre first’ approach, as well as taking action to help clear planning application backlogs.
Changes will involve many areas across government, including pre-planning readiness, which will resolve issues and speed up process, the planning process itself, including a new major applications route and a customer charter, and planning policy.
Planning is always contentious, but resolving the slow pace to town centre development opportunities must be overcome if we are to revive and revitalise our towns. Encouraging and promoting urban living can only have positive benefits and my hope is to have acknowledged progress in this area as soon as possible.
Whilst focus must happen on the bigger picture for real change, it is a real privilege as MHK to stay close to local issues, to represent local people and community interests and assist where needed.
Just as summer battles to overthrow desolate winter as part of the Oie Voaldyn Festival, which happened in Peel on May 1, I am sure that if we can get some positive changes right for better planning improvements, we can renew and revive our built environment for bright and vibrant new seasons ahead.