Sign our petition here
Update: 7 October 2022
In recent days we have been overwhelmed by the public response supporting redevelopment of Merchants Place, with literally hundreds of people expressing their support.
As a result we have submitted an appeal to the planning refusal by the Isle of Man Government Planning Committee. We are particularly upset by the injustice given out at that meeting – where our plans were rejected by only one vote – on the basis of the unfairness shown in allowing our side to only speak for a timed three minutes, whereas five members of the planning team, together with their consultant and several public members, were allowed to constantly speak against the plans.
This cannot be considered fair play and, after initially saying we had given up and would sell the site, we are now digging in for the fight!
We now hope that, on appeal, we can successfully rehabilitate the former Newson’s site and help create and connect North Quay in Douglas to be a beautiful, responsible and exciting improvement to our town. Let’s build a better future for our community.
Update: 26 September 2022
Planning permission has been refused by the Isle of Man Government’s Planning Committee. As a consequence all buildings 22-28 North Quay, Douglas are for sale with immediate effect. All enquiries to Cowley Groves.
This decision today by the planning committee is a direct repudiation of the Isle of Man Government’s policy to create a better and more prosperous Isle of Man while improving the environment and our town centres.
We have spent several years trying to invest £8 million to fix this crumbling eyesore, but have been unable to overcome the objections of the planners.
This was an environmentally responsible project to rehabilitate a dilapidated brownfield site, create more homes and create more jobs, while investing in our high street to create entertainment for our community. People who want a vibrant Douglas town centre have lost. People who want to create good jobs have lost. People who want to enhance our environment have lost. People who want to create housing for Manx families have lost.
The planners’ recommendation to refuse totally contradicted last week’s Government policy conference. Consequently, the property is now for sale with immediate effect to allow someone else to try. Interested buyers can contact Cowley Groves for further information.
We feel the planning meeting did not have access to well-balanced information. The engineer supporting objections was allowed to continually speak, whereas our architect was only given 3 minutes, and our engineer was not allowed to speak at all to challenge what they were saying. That needs to change to give a more fair planning hearing.
Finally, we wish to thank those 500+ members of the public who signed our petition to save Douglas Quay.
25 July 2022: Please help us improve Douglas Quay by signing our petition
As well as signing our petition, click here (& follow the links) for details of how to also submit your support for our proposals directly to the Isle of Man Government Department of Environment, Food and Agriculture’s Planning & Building Control Directorate.
Summary argument for approval of the conversion and redevelopment of 22-28 North Quay, Douglas
1. The primary reason for planning objection to this proposal is the demolition of Registered Buildings 27 & 28 North Quay. In order to address this reason, it is necessary to examine the criteria given by the Planning Department for listing. There is little substance in the reasons for listing other than the buildings were constructed around 1786 and they are warehouses – “warehouses being a tangible link to the Island’s development”, as stated in the reasons for listing. There is no special merit in the social history of the buildings and no real architectural merit either. In truth there has been extensive alteration to the buildings over the years with the ground floor fenestration being completely altered. Just because the buildings are 230 years old that is not in itself grounds for registration.
Turning to the condition of the buildings themselves. Kelproperties have carried out separate surveys by two Structural Engineers which both reach the same conclusion – the buildings are in such a poor structural condition that they can be considered dangerous. Safe retention is not possible and even if it were, the conversion would result in buildings that people did not want to inhabit – small rooms with little outlook, restricted ceiling heights and very poor daylight.
The condition of the buildings has recently resulted in unsightly external temporary propping having to be installed. It is a fact that these props will be in place until the inevitable demolition of these buildings as there is no safe method of structural restoration
2. There is also an objection by the Planning Department to the demolition of other buildings in the group which are within the North Quay Conservation Area. Previous planning applications have approved the demolition of 22/23 North Quay. These approvals however propose retention of the facades – a completely impractical proposal likely to result in full demolition anyway. Numbers 25 and 26 are in very poor condition and in fact no 26 does not exist – having been demolished and now faced up with unsightly asbestos sheeting.
The only building within the group that is worthy of retention is no. 24 North Quay – a building of pleasing proportions, well-constructed, and as a consequence better maintained. This building is to be comprehensively converted but externally unaltered and forms the visual anchor point for the proposed redevelopment.
3. The Planning Department are considering this application in a one-dimensional manner. Instead of focusing entirely on what they perceive as the negative elements of the proposal they should be balancing these against the considerable positives that will be achieved. The proposed development – which the applicant has named Merchants Place – contains upper floor apartments and ground floor space consisting almost entirely of bars and restaurants. The North Quay – colloquially known as the ‘Barbary Coast’ – has long been a focal point for Douglas’ entertainment and social gathering. Over the years the line of public houses has evolved into pubs, restaurants and wine bars each with external seating. This development will heavily reinforce this use and again make the North Quay a destination in itself. Upper floor apartments all have wonderful views over Douglas Marina ensuring that they will always be desirable – and consequently always occupied.
4. Finally, the opportunity presented by this application should neither be underestimated or lost. This is a large, important and very prominent site in the single ownership of the applicant. The planning application is not speculative, it is real. The cost of redevelopment and conversion is considerable. The benefits to Douglas are self-apparent and enthusiastically supported by Douglas Borough Council. The environmental improvement proposed by the design of replacement buildings in sympathy with the previous structures is considerable and entirely appropriate.
The price of refusal of the application is no development at all. There can be no ‘halfway house’ compromise solution. Consequently, no social and economic benefits will accrue from a major development proposal and the existing buildings, without any prospect of safe or economic retention, will be literally held up in limbo for the foreseeable future.
In short it makes very little sense for the Planning Committee to refuse this application and the very definition of common sense for them to approve it.