Context 153 - March 2018

30 C O N T E X T 1 5 3 : M A R C H 2 0 1 8 There is a recognition that greater public engagement in the planning process would be beneficial. Excepting the recently revised strategic plan, current planning policy and guidance are somewhat out of date. There has also been no consolidation of planning legislation of the kind seen in England, and some elements of heritage legislation remain separate from planning. There is, however, particular recognition that the current system of building registration needs to be overhauled.The lack of a grading system is seen by many as detrimental and there are moves within government to deal with the backlog of registration proposals. The former position of conservation officer is currently vacant. In its place, a new post has recently been advertised for a registered buildings officer, who will be responsible for managing and expanding the register, and advising on conservation issues. At present, planning officials are responsible for recommending buildings for registration and for assess- ing planning applications. It has been suggested that responsibility for recommending buildings for registration, andmaintaining the register of protected buildings, should be more collaborative and perhaps, in due course, come under the auspices of Manx National Heritage. While some buildings are protected through registration and others receive some protection from their location within a conservation area, there is currently no public provision for the identification and protection of other buildings at risk. There is a clear risk to existing buildings in the country- side, particularly in the face of new development.When the strategic plan was revised, the island’s population was expected to increase to around 93,500 by 2026, requiring an additional 5,100 homes. Planning these for new devel- opments needs to be sensitive to the environmental and historic context. Recent years have seen the construction of large-scale houses by high-net-worth individuals,many of which ignore the island’s traditional architectural forms. It has also led to the destruction of many vernacular farm buildings and dwellings. Part of the problem is that we currently have relatively little information about the island’s vernacular buildings, particularly those in the countryside. It is therefore difficult to evaluate the architectural or historic significance of individual properties. There are currently no plans for an audit of the island’s wider historic built environment. With the planning system under review, there is now an opportunity for government to amend, or radically redesign, planning and conservation policy and legislation. There seems to be widespread support for significant changes, at both political and officer-levels. Perhaps the biggest challenge will be to find a way to adequately resource planning and conservation during the current period of continued economic instability. Catriona Mackie is lecturer in history and heritage at University College Isle of Man, and a visiting research fellow at the University of Chester. She is a trustee of Manx National Heritage and sits on the Board of CultureVannin. She is a former chair of the island’s building conservation forum. The Tynwald Chamber in the Legislative Buildings, Douglas (Photo: Patricia Tutt, ARPS)