Thoughts on the Tynwald Pier Debate
18th May 2010

This was the proposition put to Tynwald.

  1. That Option (a), a marina in Ramsey Bay with enabling commercial and residential development as set out in Recommendation of the Working Group's Report is not progressed at this time.
  2. That the stability of the structure of Queen's Pier be maintained and protected from further deterioration by the immediate implementation of the short-term minimal option (Option 2) as outlined on Page 7 of this report and page 7 of the report of BWB Consulting Limited attached at Appendix 3.
  3. That the position regarding Queen's Pier and a final decision regarding its future be re-considered as a matter of urgency once the financial position of the Isle of Man Government becomes clearer.

Well it was never going to be easy.

But it was heartening to listen to many previous doubters, including former Transport Ministers now swinging into the realism that the Pier was worth saving and that as a Protected Structure it could not be simply 'done away with'. It was heartening also to see some cherry pickers being firmly told that the Law of the Land must be complied with across the board, public or private. Tynwald firmly bit on that bullet at long last.

There were several very robust speeches from some very unexpected quarters both in defence of the concept of the Pier, the fact that it was a National Icon and not just "Ramsey Pier" and Ramsey's problem, and deploring the remaining doubters for even suggesting it should be demolished.

Peter Karran MHK ably despatched the Red Herrings that some the Queen's Pier was for Ramsey Rate payers whilst other artefacts and projects in other towns were for the National purse. He also dealt ably with the double standards of applying Registered protection to buildings in Private ownership but not those owned by the Government. (Chief Minister Brown also very ably and pointedly picked up on this point in his speech later in the debate.) The words "Playground mentality" came into play.

Anne Craine MHK, speaking as the Treasury Minister, said it never failed to astound her just what a fantastic piece of engineering it is. The symmetry of the Pier is like nothing else that she can recall. It is a magnificent piece of our heritage and to hear that it must be demolished 'because it serves no purpose' was just being really rather dismissive. She feared for the future when she heard such comments as it implies that there is no ambition, no aspiration from the Members of this Court for a future that contains our heritage.

Steve Rodan MHK Speaker of House of Keys.) dismissed the Demolition amendment as misguided fudge and lack of vision. The easy option. He cited the Laxey wheel, the Steam and Electric Railways - as having been obsolete and uneconomic when it would have been easier to rip up the rails and demolish. Vision existed then to see a broader view and save something that had the capacity to be a prime tourist asset in the future. That same vision was needed now! Tynwald had no option but to support the motion in the best interests of the long-term view of tourist amenity and heritage of the Isle of Man.

Eddie Teare MHK was of the same view and reinforced the double standards that would have to be applied should the Government flout its own Protected Building Legislation.

Eddie Lowey MLC, confessed he had been one of the Harbour Board who tried to rid the Island of the Queen's Pier many years ago but now was voting t save it because he did not want to lose an iconic structure that epitomises the Isle of Man to many people, home and abroad. He took the attitude that it was worth fighting for. He voted for the resolution in 2005 and he could not see any reason to change his mind.

Hon Tony Brown MHK, Chief Minister, Was equally emphatic saying "We still have to continue to have confidence to invest and to protect what we have." "collectively none of the Heritage Artefacts make a profit. "There is no doubt that the Pier itself is recognised by many in this Island as being important to us". The Chief Minster again touched on what others had said abut 'cherry picking' which bit of the Law you liked and which you rejected. He said it was not how the world worked. If it is registered, it is registered, full stop. One could go for de-registration and there is a process, but nothing guaranteed. It would involve an independent planning inspector and if the only argument Government could put forward - the only real argument - is because they do not want to spend the money, it would be thrown out. An inspector would say that is not an argument or reason for de-registration.

There is always a danger of knowing the cost of everything and the value of nothing and he believed Tynwald needed to take this at least a step forward. People in the future might look back when this is sorted out and say, 'Wow, weren't we lucky they did not pull it down!'

Allan Bell MHK, Minster for Economic Development, said that had Tynwald had the confidence in the last debate, the funding would have been there. The problem always has been the lack of political will to do anything about it and the failure to recognise the Queen's Pier's importance in the heritage structure of the Isle of Man. The Queen's Pier is one of the last pieces now of our heritage structure which has not actually been adopted and refurbished by Government. What was now needed is political will; what is needed is vision and courage to go with that, to deliver this final piece of the heritage jigsaw that the Isle of Man so proudly boasts about.

Mrs Clare Christian MLC, had a feeling that the matter could either be death by a thousand cuts -or it as going to be an incentive for us to turn it around. When the going gets tough, the tough get going! Some Members were saying that if they let this go it is the end of the day, but we are not giving up, there is still life in the body and so we are going to keep trying.

Dudley Butt MLC was just as firm saying the Queen's Pier had been there for 130 years and those wrought iron stanchions have not deteriorated and are not likely to for some time, so the basic condition of the Pier is sound. He also made the point that there was a Budget of £40,000 annually that was largely unspent so there was a saving of probably over £0.5m which could be in effect a backward contribution to what has been proposed.

Tim Crookall MHK told the Court he would not want to be one of the ones who said pull it down. He felt that having looked at the problem and the Pier herself the £1.8m would give us another chance. I think that is a chance worth taking. A chance worth doing.

Graham Cregeen MHK wanted to know if the charities, the Friends of the Queen's Pier, would be Involved? Would they come forward and offer to raise some money?
(Editors note:- Friends of Queen's Pier have repeatedly put on record that they will be involved in fund raising once the Pier restoration gets under way and have undertaken to try and raise the £750k needed for the new decking.)

Phillip Braidwood MLC and previous Transport Minister, told Members "we either have a de minimis amount spent, or for another £300,000 demolish, and then it is gone and we have no other revenue implications. However he would turn with Eddie Lowey's "Tide" and support the de minimis option. As had been said, IOM nearly lost the railways, could have lost Lady Isabella, the Laxey Wheel, and therefore he felt that, hopefully, in five years' time, we may have refurbished Ramsey Pier.

Alex Downie MLC observed that anybody who votes for the proposal today had got to say that, in the future we need to find some commitment to get on and finish this project. He had never believed in throwing good money after bad and was absolutely convinced that, in spending £1.8 million on the de minimis that Tynwald are going to create local jobs. A lot of the work could be done on Island and the Committee had work well with BWB and found them to be excellent people, top quality people who are going to bring something to this project at last. He would not support for the amendment (for Demolition) as he believed the people in the Isle of Man expected better of their government.

David Cannan MHK, said he had spoken to “several Ramsey people” all of whom wanted to see the Pier reopened not just spending £1.8m and hoping for better times this year next year sometime never. He would not vote for demolition but was reluctant to vote for £1.8m for little benefit. The Pier in his opinion had no purpose. In Phil Gawne’s later words this was to vote against everything in the hope it would just go away.

Martynn Quayle MHK. Advised caution in assuming that a vote today was a commitment to spend more later. It was not.

Minister Phil Gawne then summed up by saying the ‘demolition supporters’ should realise heritage was more than a few figures on a Balance Sheet. He was gratified by the strong support for his Proposals and felt that they were setting the foundations for refurbishment. The ownership of the Pier carried responsibilities both for public safety and as a Protected Structure.

Amendment failed 26-4. Proposal passed 29-1.
(Bill Malarkey the only dissenter.)

 

 

© 2008 Friends of Queens Pier, Ramsey, Isle of Man. Reg. No. 634. E&OE. Design By David Kinrade - www.davidkinrade.com