Marown Commissioners disappointed with stance

The environment, food and agriculture minister says his department was right to change the criteria for interested party status (IPS), but a commissioner insists what’s happened is wrong.

Minister Geoffrey Boot says some were using the status, which grants the right to appeal planning decisions, to delay applications and ‘stifle economic development’.

Under his supervision, DEFA opted to place more-restrictive rules on those who could be given IPS, and introduced the policy internally last year.

It came after the minister made a statement to Tynwald members in May 2018, outlining changes to planning.

Many residents in Crosby were angry after discovering they’d lost their interested party status, and could no longer make appeals over a controversial planning application in the village.

They’ve been objecting to the development since 2015, investing time and money into the process, but none were told about the introduction of the new policy.

Mr Boot admits some will be disappointed, but that ‘a line had to be drawn at some point’ to bring the changes ‘online’.

The chairman of Marown Commissioners, Alex Toohey, says any changes should only apply to new applications, not existing ones.

‘If I were a cynic I’d say this is an attempt to stifle the voice of those with legitimate objections in order to reduce government workloads so that planning matters are processed quickly’.

The DEFA minister has suggested aggrieved residents should direct their appeals through local authorities which, as statutory bodies, retain interested party status.

Mr Toohey has described this advice as ‘laughable’, as in his experience, commissioners are ‘not always listened to anyway’.

He says the local authority wasn’t told about the change, and only found out about it when reading planning judgements.

Writing on social media, Onchan MHK Rob Callister was of the view that DEFA should have made it clear to local authorities and the public when the policy was going to be enforced.

He’s also expressed disappointment that MHKs weren’t fully briefed on the change.

Local Democracy Reporter Ewan Gawne asked Mr Boot whether it was fair to introduce the new policy during what some consider ongoing planning applications:

Audio File on Manx Radio