Mann 3000 is an independent organisation formed to investigate and make input into the long-term future of planning in the Isle of Man. This document was presented to Mec Vannin for consideration. Mec Vannin endorsed the document and it was submitted by Mann 3000 with Mec Vannin's endorsement attached.
The Isle of Man Draft Strategic Plan.
The Draft Strategic Plan is the first such plan to be released.
We regard the content of this Plan as utterly vital; as a "First Plan", it will become the blueprint for all subsequent strategic planning thought.
Any document that addresses the future of the Isle of Man should address its future beyond our own lifetimes. If it does not, then it cannot be called a 'strategic' document at all.
In this respect the First Strategic Plan fails to fulfil its prime purpose. Not only does it confine itself to the immediate interests of the current population, but it confines itself to just ten years of that.
There is no clear reason for such short-term vision from a Government Department that has, in its remit, the protection of the environment. Although it is quite acceptable to analyse the short-term in detail, it is wholly unacceptable to avoid any long-tenn analysis at all.
Dependence on current policy
If the Strategic Plan is intended to be
an independent document, then it is prevented from being so by the very
wording of its own Strategic Aim.
Quite Correctly, the plan states in Chapter 2 that planning should be consistent with the policies of the Government in power. Quite incorrectly, it precedes this by stating what the policies of the current administration are - for example "To pursue manageable and sustainable growth."
Any policy could be reversed through a change in Government. Yet it is this policy that has been embedded boldly in the strategy for at least two more terms, as if the opinion of subsequent Governments were unimportant.
A balanced document would state, simply, that planning should be consistent with current Government policy. (Period.)
Neutrality of language
The use of language can be subtle and evocative. It can, if allowed, convey a variety of goals or intentions. Therefore it is singularly important that the Strategic Plan does not use subtle or evocative wording.
Yet it does.
Having stated the key word "growth" as one of the strategic aims, the document echoes this doctrine throughout its entire length in an almost subliminal way.
A word count of the plan shows that the most damning word in this context is "Development", a word that has a very clear message, particularly where it is used instead of more neutral words such as "Management", "Maintenance", "Renovation" ... or simply "Planning".
This bias towards development will put indirect pressure on all subsequent planning on the Island - a pressure to approve growth and development - a bias that developers will be able to use to great advantage.
Any reasonable attempt at neutrality would err towards stasis, not growth.
Increase in area available for development.
The plan itself estimates that there are 31,700 households on the Island. The proposal to increase this by 3,500 amounts therefore to an increase in housing of 11 % in ten years.
This appears to exclude increases due to industrial or capital expenditure consumption.
In addition, it should be remembered that the increase in the number of dwellings on the Island is coupled to an increase in the average footprint for each dwelling, for example, as people move from terraced to semi-detached properties - a progression made easier by prefabricated construction.
This necessarily means that the increase of land-cover will actually be much greater than 1 I%.
Estimates based on current plot sizes suggest that this level of development corresponds to a loss of green-field land at a continuous rate of around 5 acres per month.
Decrease in area available as fertile land.
Almost all the preferred areas for development
have been so far on good arable land, land that has been cultivated over
hundreds of years.
This land is most at risk for many reasons, not least because the road system itself has evolved from a framework that once linked farming communities, often running along the fertile courses of rivers.
There is every reason to believe that this rate of consumption will continue: developers are continuing to purchase farm land along the existing patterns as an investment. Some of this land is on the best fluvial or alluvial soil available. *
We believe that the majority, if not all of the 5 acres per month will be taken from good arable stock.
Feeding an increasing population.
By considering only ten years, the Plan fails to show any long term understanding of the asymptotic behaviour of the above parameters - growth, on the one hand, and shrinkage, on the other.
Good government must provide contingencies for a stable future, not only in its provision for housing but also in the ability to feed the population. "Sustainable growth" should be sustainable.
If a policy provides for an increase in population, it must also provide for an increase in arable land resources, not a decrease. Otherwise it is merely a plan for mute dependency on the uncertain future of external markets.
To compromise the possibility of any self sufficiency in the future is to fail in the most basic contingency of all. It is nothing less than to fail at the most basic level of government.
A Strategic Plan - if it is to have any credibility at all - should give much greater emphasis to the importance of protecting a diverse system of agriculture on good fertile land for future generations than it does in this first draft. **
* The UK Classification system used in the Plan lumps 80% of agricultural land into Class 3. This unnatural grouping will make it diffi cult , for planners to make judgements about land quality. It will also deprive Environment Policy 8 of any real direction - land of "lower quality" amounting to less than I 5% of the total.
** Currently the plan devotes one sub paragraph, 3.3h, to this entire .subject. It actually states that "One of the prime considerations ... will continue to be the conservation and enhancement of the landscape. " Aside ,from the absurd use of the word `continue' in this paragraph, the value of land as a means to provide food in the future does not .seem to have been identified as a prime concern at all.