Onchan MHK Rob Callister has criticised the official blueprint for development in the east of the island and government estimates for population growth.

Mr Callister has made the comments in a letter to planning policy officer Dean Balkin.

He has questioned how the government’s figures for population growth have been calculated, questioned whether the island needed more than 5,000 more houses and questioned whether the infrastructure could sustain the extra homes.

The Area Plan for the East (Douglas, Braddan, Onchan, Marown, Laxey, Lonan and Santon) identifies potential development sites.

Mr Callister says in his letter: ’In my opinion the Isle of Man is still yet to have a genuine debate on the island’s population levels and what we would consider to be a maximum level, in order to ensure that this island remains a social place to live and work for future generations.’

He continues by noting that, since 1951, the population had grown by only 29,000.

He adds: ’So the figure of an additional 5,100 homes that are needed between 2011 and 2026 is questionable and I would certainly like to see how the Cabinet Office came up with this final figure.’

Mr Callister questions the need for the extra houses while also challenging the government to ensure more affordable housing is built along with social and local housing to attempt to attract the young professionals or young families that the island needs.

Attracting young workers is seen as key to the island’s future prosperity, however the most recent census in 2016 showed that the population and the percentage of residents under 30 had fallen since 2011.

Mr Callister states that what the island needs is affordable housing to attract young people, noting that 93% of house sales in the island are priced below £500,000 with 50% below £250,000.

In referring to the plans for his constituency in particularly, Mr Callister highlights the mistakes of the past largely focussing on infrastructure.

He noted that when St Ninian’s Lower School was opened in 2012, the infrastructure of the area by Signpost Corner wasn’t addressed and, as a result, ’the road leading into Hillberry Road from Signpost Corner continually backs up during peak periods.

’And on occasion this goes well beyond the roundabout on Signpost Corner, which is a serious traffic concern.’

Mr Callister also raises doubts that if the planned growth of an additional 400 to 600 houses in Onchan were built, it would require ’significant investment’ in the village’s schools potentially a new development into one combined site.

He also calls for a full review of Onchan’s sewerage system, citing flooding in recent years during spells of heavy rain as a sign it may not be able to cope with increased demand.

Mr Callister concludes his letter by stating that given the building of 127 houses in Birch Hill Park in Onchan was rejected in 2005, he fails to see how a potential 250 houses could be given approval.

While the Eastern Plan does identify new areas that could be zoned for development, it doesn’t mean those areas will be developed.

That would depend on developers coming forward with plans. They would be unlikely to do so unless there was demand for them and they would sell them.

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Source: IoMToday