Environment Minister Geoffrey Boot has told the House of Keys in no uncertain terms who is in charge when it comes to planning appeals.

Mr Boot was asked by Onchan MHK Rob Callister to explain his decision to over-rule the independent inspector’s recommendation in respect of an application by Howstrake Developments Ltd for an 80-bed care home on land at the far end of King Edward Road.

The application had originally been accepted in principle before Onchan Commissioners appealed.

The inspector had supported their appeal to overturn the approval, however Mr Boot decided to ignore this advice and throw out the appeal.

In a written answer to the Keys, Mr Boot said: ’Clearly any decision that runs contrary to an inspector’s recommendation is one that I do not take lightly, especially when the appellants are the local commissioners and there are also public objections. ’In the 116 appeal decisions that I have made since becoming minister [in 2016] I have only disagreed with the inspector in seven of these. However, the power to determine appeals rests with me, as the Minister for Environment, Food and Agriculture, and not the appeal inspector.

’I believe that it is right for the decision to be made by an elected representative of Tynwald who is answerable to the public in a way that an off-island inspector is not.

’Reasons for decisions have to be made and need to be reasonable.’

Mr Boot said he rejected the appeal for a number of reasons including the allocation in the area plan, the need to optimise use of land, the need for care homes to meet the needs of the island’s aging population, traffic, drainage, and the potential impact on the landscape.

However, this appears to have contradicted the planning inspector’s report when the inspector too examined the area plan.

In their report, the inspector said: ’General Policy 2(a) of the Isle of Man Strategic Plan 2016 requires that development must be in accordance with a design brief in the relevant area plan, where there is such a brief.

’Policy O/RES/P/9 provides a design brief, and stipulates that the development of the appeal site should be for “a maximum of three new dwellings”. Therefore, the proposed development would fail to meet the requirements of General Policy 2(a).’

In rejecting the appeal Mr Boot said this was ’not sufficient’ reasoning enough to block the application on a principle basis.

Mr Callister was clearly disappointed with the decision and told the Manx Independent of his concern over politicians ignoring independent inspectors advice.

He said: ’We have to be careful overruling individual inspectors we bring in for their advice and opinion and I have to question the purpose of reviewing applications if a minister or political members are going to overrule that independent advice.’

Mr Callister also explained his concerns with the care home plan including its ’transport links, infrastructure and why the building will not be connected to the main Iris sewerage system’.

The site does have public transport links. However, this is currently limited to a bus service, which only runs a maximum of three times a day, Monday to Friday.

The Manx Electric Railway also has a stop about 150 yards away from what would be the entrance to the care home.

In their report, the planning inspector raised concerns about sewerage from the site, saying the applicant Howstrake Development Ltd had initially said it would use the main sewer system.

However, the inspector noted in their report that ’subsequent documents refer to “on-site drainage without the need to connect to the mains”, but no details have been provided’.

They recommended that if the care home to go ahead, it must be connected to the Iris system.

Mr Boot did accept this recommendation from the inspector and agreed with their view that ’before the nursing home hereby approved is occupied, arrangements must be in place for foul sewage from that development to be disposed of via the mains sewer in the highway.

Source: IoMToday