Changes to Douglas urban landscape planned

THE long-awaited proposed development of the former bus station site in Douglas lurched one stage closer to realisation at the end of a Tynwald evening sitting on Tuesday. MHKs (Members of the House of Keys) approved the broad terms for agreement between the DLGE (Department of Local Government and the Environment) and developer Askett Hawk to enable the scheme to continue.

A four-star 124-bed hotel on the former Lord Street bus station is planned along with flats, shops and restaurants overlooking North Quay to complete the development forming part of the Island’s gateway for visiting tourists. The site is also to provide 150 parking spaces.

A 999-year lease of the site was approved in March 2008 but a similar motion to agree terms with developer Askett-Hawk was withdrawn from Tynwald last January pending the outcome of the DTI’s retail study.

The message to members from Treasury Minister Allan Bell was: ‘Get off the fence and stop avoiding making a decision. Send out a positive message and address the issues.’ Mr Bell said anyone rejecting the offer of £70m investment needed their head examining.

‘We are not being asked to make a decision today. It is just to move it on to the next stage. One of our biggest handicaps developing new business has been things like poor quality retail, poor quality hotels, restaurants and night life. We have struggled to get investors to come to the Island because of these issues and if this continues we can write off any stimulus of new economic growth in the future. I despair for the future if we carry on dodging making a decision,’ he said.

But there were lots of objections and even a joke from the Chief Minister in the debate in Tynwald. Local politics at its best. More here.