Controversial Laxey beauty spot re-development is given the green light by a UK based Planning Appeal Inspector
Planning issues have always attracted controversy, but the approval by a UK based planning inspector of plans for a replacement dwelling on a sensitive site on Old Laxey Hill, in the face of fierce opposition from the owners of neighbouring properties and the local authority, have caused residents of the surrounding area to brand the process ‘grotesquely undemocratic’.
At the heart of the dispute are plans to construct a substantial, modern, ‘urban’ style three storey dwelling to replace ‘Berwyn’ – an existing two- bedroomed bungalow on the sea-facing side of Old Laxey Hill.
The radical plans were initially refused by a planning committee after opposition from seven householders and Laxey Commissioners. Among the reasons for the refusal were that it would be contrary to general policies 2b, 2c, 2e, 2g. This means the build would have an adverse impact on the residential amenities of a nearby property because the height, mass and scale of the proposed building, which does not respect the site and surroundings because of its sheer size, would obliterate the outlook from their property. It will also adversely affect the public’s view of the sea which is acknowledged in the UK inspector’s report.
Among the objectors to the scheme were Trish and Mark Dudley, whose property, ‘Seacliffe’ straddles the main Laxey to Ramsey Road and Old Laxey Hill. The new building, as proposed, will, they say, adversely affect the outlook the Isle of Man strategic plan says they are entitled to (a point conceded by the planning inspector in his report). They were also critical of the scale and design of the plans, which they believe to be unsympathetic to the style, and character of the area.
The Dudleys say they feel badly let down by the system: “As part of the process we, along with the people in the area, Garff Commissioners and the Planning Committee were all allegedly given a say. There was a unanimous view from all parties that the plans were unsuitable, but ultimately it seems the verdict of a single Independent Inspector from the UK, can ride roughshod over everybody.
Then to cap it all the Minister upholds his findings without even visiting the site.”
Mark Dudley added: “Here we are in the 21st century and the views of local people mean nothing. We may have lost this planning battle, but we are adamant that things must change, because we don’t believe the system adheres to the principles of democracy. We have paid for legal advice and have been told we have a strong case to take the matter further, but the costs would be astronomical and way beyond our means.”
In his findings the Appeals Inspector conceded that unlike adjacent dwellings the new building would be ‘of the 21st century’. He stated: “It would be uncompromisingly modern in its design and use of materials, with extensive glazed areas on its eastern elevation, and a gently curving standing seam roof system, stepping down the hill in four sections.’ He went on to say he believed it would ‘make a significant, positive contribution to the area.’
Householders in properties around the site would clearly beg to differ. The IOM strategic plan states clearly that developments must ‘respect the site and surroundings in terms of the siting, layout, scale, form, design and landscaping of buildings and the spaces around them’. A 21st century build in an area of 19th century Manx cottages appears to be at best incongruous, at worst an eyesore.
Mark and Trish Dudley accept that under planning laws nobody has the right to a view, but they feel strongly that their right to an outlook has been ignored by the Appeals Inspector: “His findings concede that in some respects general policy 2g of the Isle of Man strategic plan may be breached by the development – but not enough to justify planning refusal.
“Nevertheless, it seems incredible that one person, who doesn’t even live on the Island, can overrule the opinions of a collective group who were unanimous in their opposition to this build as well as discounting aspects of our Island’s Strategic Plan.”