Onchan Local Plan:
Tourism, Recreation and Transport
Tourism3.1 The role of Onchan in the Island's tourist industry has changed and generally declined over the past decade or so. The major hotels in the district – the Majestic and the Douglas Bay Hotels have long since been used for tourist accommodation and the Howstrake Holiday Camp has not seen any visitors staying at the site for a considerable period. The area which was zoned for Tourist Accommodation in Parkland on the 1982 Development Plan Order between Lakeside and Groudle Glen (Area 6) was never developed for such purposes and in fact had its designated changed with the1989 Onchan Local Plan to Residential Development in Parkland.
3.2 The remaining tourist accommodation lies at Groudle Beach where holiday chalets are available for tourists. There are also a small number of bed and breakfast and guest houses within the district and the increasingly successful Glen Dhoo Camp Site.
3.3 The District also draws tourists through the attractions of the rural countryside which surrounds the village, the Groudle Glen Railway, Onchan Park Stadium, Groudle and Molly Quirk's Glens, the various restaurants and licensed premises within the area and the King Edward Bay Golf Course and Club. One-off events such as trials events at Port Jack, White City and Howstrake, gymkanas at the various equestrian centres within the area and the like also help to maintain Onchan's position in the Island's tourist industry. Suggestions were submitted to increase the range of facilities available at the Groudle Glen Railway including the provision of waiting facilities at Sea Lion Rocks which has been the subject of recent planning approval (PA 97/1780).
3.4 The response to the subject of tourism in the Issues and Options document was greeted with a mixture of views: some thought that no further tourist developments should be permitted some felt that there should be more, particularly more bed and breakfast and self catering facilities throughout the district, although the Department is aware that such facilities may cause inconvenience and nuisance to neighbours when the facility is provided in a built-up area.
3.5 The Manx Electric Railway also runs through Onchan with halts at King Edward Park and Groudle and is a form of transport to, from and through the area as well as being a tourist attraction in its own right.
3.6 A number of people supported the provision of more footpaths within the area.
3.7 Onchan Stadium provides a wide variety of facilities which are available for local residents as well as visitors. The Park has informal play facilities such as swings, a slide, climbing frame etc as well as organised activities such as the karting, boats, crazy golf, putting, squash, tennis, football and bowls. There is also an amusement arcade, café and licensed function room available. The land to the north of the Birch Hill estate has previously had permission granted in principle for the creation of a golf course (PA 87/1043) and of course there is the existing golf course at the King Edward Bay Country Club.
3.8 The Department is aware of a general concern that there is a shortfall in the amount of space available for children's play. Birch Hill has provided a great deal of dwellings with a disproportionate amount of space provided for play facilities. Similarly Lakeside Gardens has one play area which is considered by some to be inadequate for the amount of housing which surrounds it. Ballachurry (from Governor's Road to Heywood Park) has limited play facilities immediately available to the children who live there.
3.9 It is difficult to provide retrospectively for areas which have already been developed as the available land has often already been used for building. This is particularly difficult if the potential for further expansion of residential development into open areas is to be resisted as further residential development could present an opportunity to provide play facilities for areas which have previously had inadequate play areas provided. Expansion of recreational facilities or the provision of such facilities on agricultural land adjoining the housing areas is one option, and in the case of Birch Hill, Lakeside and Ballachurry, land is certainly there into which to expand if it is felt appropriate. However, access to such land is often problematical and the availability of the land in terms of whether it is for sale, is seldom straightforward.
3.10 The Department has embraced a number of policies within its various plans to support the development of tourism on the Island and in this respect Onchan is no exception. However, it is essential to ensure that development is not detrimental to the amenities of the area by virtue of noise, nuisance to adjacent land users, traffic movements, parking provision or visual intrusion where the facilities themselves may destroy or undermine the very landscape or opportunity which attracted the visitors there in the first place. The Department has considered the issue of designating land which may be suitable for new tourist developments and has concluded that the only sites which are suitable for new tourist developments are:
- the Douglas Bay Hotel Site (Area 3)
- the Majestic Hotel site (Area 4) and
3.11 The Douglas Bay Hotel site (Area 3) has had planning approval for the erection of a large corporate headquarters but this has not been executed to date. The site has clearly been used for tourism-related purposes in the past and is considered suitable for such purposes now. Any building or buildings to be built upon the site must however acknowledge the prominent position of the site.
3.12 The Majestic Hotel site (Area 4) has also previously been used for tourism related purposes and is considered suitable for such uses now.
3.13 The Howstrake Holiday Camp (Area 5) has a previous history as having been used for tourism and is in dire need of attention and restoration. The 1989 Onchan Local Plan provided for the development of the site for tourism with some residential: however this policy was accompanied by a provision which permitted a five year period for an application to be approved in detail for such a development: failing this the site would revert to having an accepted use as Open Space where development would not be approved. Since that five year rule became applicable the site has remained derelict with the buildings falling further into disrepair and the site remaining as unattractive as it has been for the previous decade and before. The Department initially considered that rather than the site remaining derelict and unattended, some development may achieve the restoration of the site for the benefit of all who may view it. However, after careful reconsideration, the Department considers that the benefits of restoring some of the site would be outweighed by the permanent presence of buildings on the site, in a position where such buildings have not been for some considerable time. The Department is aware this is one of the few headlands in Onchan which has not been subject to development and as such, the Department would wish to continue with the policy contained in the previous Onchan Local Plan that, having failed to secure a detailed approval for a sympathetic development on the site within the five year life of the previous local plan, that the site return to Open Space. The Department would encourage the possible future use of the site for purposes of Public Open Space with provision of a public right of way through the site to Groudle Beach and Glen.
3.14 Existing facilities may require expansion or additional facilities, including the Groudle Glen Railway and Glen Dhoo Camp site and policies should be included to provide for appropriate expansion in these cases. There are existing facilities available at the King Edward Bay Golf Course and Country Club which may require expansion and/or alteration and provided that these do not interfere with the amenities of the area in visual or ecological terms or the amenities of adjacent residents, these will generally not be opposed where they are of an appropriate scale and design.
3.15 The Department recognises the importance to tourists and locals alike of the Manx Electric Railway which operates within the study area. As such, the Department would wish to provide for the appropriate expansion and improvement of these facilities. In order to promote walking within the area, the Department would wish to encourage the Department of Transport in the provision of further footpaths in Onchan if this is considered appropriate.
3.16 The Department is generally supportive of attempts to provide further recreational facilities within the area particularly where this is in association with existing residential development. In particular, the Department will encourage the provision of play facilities at Bemahague (on the land zoned for Educational purposes) on the basis that such an area is unlikely to prejudice the development of the site for a new school and would not prejudice the open aspect of the site which clearly identifies the boundary between Douglas and Onchan. Similarly the Department would not oppose the provision of playing facilities on any land adjacent to Birch Hill. In this respect it is important to note the Commissioners' intention to create a centenary park on land at Cronk ny Mona. Whilst it has been suggested that the development of golf course facilities at Ballachrink (north of Birch Hill) could also provide opportunities for additional leisure/sports facilities (running track, pitches etc) it is felt that these would not generally be appropriate here as the land is exposed and highly visible and that the formal and organised appearance of sports facilities such as these would be detrimental to the otherwise natural appearance of the area - an appearance which would largely be retained with the creation of a golf course. The development of a golf course here could also include the provision of a public footpath which has been requested of the Department of Transport on many occasions. The Inspector supported the principle of the creation of a golf course at Ballachrink but dismissed the concept of dwellings erected in association with this facility and the Department would endorse this view.
3.17 The Department would also not oppose the provision of playing facilities on land adjacent to Lakeside. However, it should be noted that significant areas of open space and play opportunities are provided in the scheme for residential development recently approved at Appeal (PA 97/0772) (see also Section on Residential).
3.18 The Department therefore considers that the following policies and recommendation are appropriate to guide and promote tourism in Onchan.
3.19 O/TRT/P/1 - DOUGLAS BAY HOTEL SITE - Area 3
THE SITE OF THE FORMER DOUGLAS BAY HOTEL WILL BE CONSIDERED SUITABLE FOR TOURISM-RELATED DEVELOPMENT. ANY BUILDING OR BUILDINGS MUST HOWEVER ACKNOWLEDGE THE PROMINENT POSITION OF THE SITE AND MUST BE DESIGNED TO AN APPROPRIATELY HIGH STANDARD.
3.20 O/TRT/P/2 - MAJESTIC HOTEL SITE - Area 4
THE SITE OF THE FORMER MAJESTIC HOTEL WILL BE CONSIDERED SUITABLE FOR TOURISM-RELATED DEVELOPMENT SUBJECT TO THE FOLLOWING DEVELOPMENT BRIEF:
- the height of the new building(s) erected between the former hotel and King Edward Road may not exceed that of the former Majestic Hotel that is a maximum ridge height (excluding chimneys) of 56.00 above ordnance datum. Any buildings built on the lower part of the site - that is between the former hotel and the public footpath - must be reduced in height below the level referred to above in recognition of the sloping nature of the site.
- any detailed proposal must include a landscaping scheme to complement the buildings proposed and to soften the impact of the buildings proposed. Particular attention will be paid to the impact of the development from the public footpath which runs on the coastal side of the site and no buildings will be permitted any closer to the footpath than 20 metres.
THE PROVISION OF TOURIST ACCOMMODATION MAY BE PERMITTED WITHIN THE STUDY AREA WHERE THIS IS EITHER:
- IN BUILT-UP AREAS WHERE THIS WILL NOT CAUSE NUISANCE OR DISTURBANCE TO ADJACENT RESIDENTS OR IN RURAL AREAS WHERE THE DEVELOPMENT WILL NOT RESULT IN AN ADVERSE IMPACT IN TERMS OF THE VISUAL IMPACT, TRAFFIC, NOISE OR DEMANDS.
- UPON EXISTING INFRASTRUCTURE. WHERE TOURIST ACCOMMODATION IS TO BE PROVIDED IN ADDITION TO AN EXISTING OR PROPOSED PERMANENT RESIDENTIAL USE, ADEQUATE ADDITIONAL CAR PARKING WILL BE REQUIRED IN PROPORTION TO THE AMOUNT OF ADDITIONAL TOURIST BEDSPACES TO BE PROVIDED.
THE DEPARTMENT WILL NOT OPPOSE PROPOSALS FOR THE IMPROVEMENT OF FACILITIES ASSOCIATED WITH EITHER THE GROUDLE GLEN OR MANX ELECTRIC RAILWAYS WHERE THESE ARE APPROPRIATE IN SIZE, SCALE AND APPEARANCE TO THEIR LOCATION AND PURPOSE.
THE DEPARTMENT WOULD SUPPORT THE DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORT IN ANY PROPOSAL TO DESIGNATE MORE FOOTPATHS WITHIN THE STUDY AREA.
ONCHAN STADIUM, ONCHAN PARK AND THE BUILDINGS WITHIN ONCHAN PARK WILL CONTINUE TO BE DESIGNATED FOR RECREATION AND OPEN SPACE.
THE DEPARTMENT WILL SUPPORT PROPOSALS FOR THE PROVISION OF CHILDREN'S PLAY FACILITIES WITHIN THE STUDY AREA. THIS IS PARTICULARLY APPROPRIATE ADJACENT TO EXISTING RESIDENTIAL AREAS.
THE AREA ADJACENT TO BIRCH HILL, BALLACHRINK FARM IS CONSIDERED APPROPRIATE FOR THE CREATION OF A GOLF COURSE WITH NEW BUILDINGS LOCATED CLOSE TO AND AMONGST THE EXISTING FARM COMPLEX AND UTILISING EXISTING ATTRACTIVE BUILDINGS WHERE POSSIBLE. PROPOSALS FOR THE CREATION OF A GOLF COURSE HERE MUST INCLUDE THE INTRODUCTION OF A PUBLIC FOOTPATH OR FOOTPATHS RUNNING THROUGH THE SITE. (The Department of Transport Highways and Traffic Division should be consulted in this respect).