The Department of Infrastructure has today (Tuesday 5 May 2015) announced exciting plans for the redevelopment of Douglas Promenade.
The proposals feature modern design concepts and an innovative new layout aimed at balancing the needs of road users, pedestrians and horse tram passengers.
As well as reconstructing the failing highway, the scheme seeks to strengthen the connection between the Promenade and town centre to create a sense of place that attracts people, investment and spending.
The refurbishment is also intended to act as a catalyst for the future regeneration of Douglas and to reflect the Isle of Man’s status as a leading international business centre, a tourist destination and a desirable place to live.
Infrastructure Minister Phil Gawne MHK said:
‘The design will no doubt challenge people’s traditional views. However, this is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to deliver a scheme that is exciting, inspiring and supports economic growth. The plans represent a more progressive and inclusive approach to street design. While accommodating the needs of motorists, the intention is to create an amenity that can be enjoyed by everyone.’
It is widely recognised that significant capital investment in Douglas Promenade is urgently required, as the road continues to deteriorate, with the surface becoming uneven, patched and badly cracked. It has reached the end of its useful life, both as a highway and from an aesthetic viewpoint.
In addition to addressing much-needed improvements to the highway, footways and drainage, the Department’s project team has sought to adopt a bold approach in order to develop a world-class gateway to the Isle of Man in line with the vision of the Douglas Masterplan.
Some of the measures reflect the opinions of Manx residents, hoteliers and retailers who responded to a consultation and exhibition in October 2014. Inspiration has also been drawn from successful schemes in the UK where modern redesign of town and village streetscapes has provided a multi-million pound boost to businesses and property values, as well as contributing to a greater sense of community.
The overall scheme is focused on improving traffic flow and enhancing public safety by making motorists more responsive to their surroundings. The use of different road materials, paving and coloured surfaces is intended to create an environment that can be better shared by motorists, cyclists and pedestrians.
While vehicle speeds are expected to be slower, journey times along the Promenade are also likely to reduce, with the absence of traffic signals and zebra crossings eliminating the stop-start effect on traffic.
Parking has been a key consideration throughout the design process and the Department has endeavoured to maintain as many spaces as possible, particularly in popular areas such as Loch Promenade where diagonal parking will be introduced on both sides of the road.
The plans also include a ‘Cultural Quarter’ in the area around the Sefton Hotel and Gaiety Theatre, with provision of space for public art and street performances.
Minister Gawne said:
‘It is recognised that Douglas Promenade is an important route for commuters and the scheme will deliver smoother journeys and reduced travelling times. However, there is a strong feeling that the existing Promenade has become dominated by the needs of vehicles. We want to strike a better balance and create a space that benefits many different users. The plans announced today reflect our desire to see a vibrant, living Promenade that will serve the Island’s needs for generations to come.’
The proposed layout for the Promenade from the Bottleneck car park to Strathallan includes the removal of the twin horse tram tracks from the centre of the highway and the introduction of a single track on the walkway.
The Minister commented:
‘There has been a lot of public discussion over the location of the horse tram tracks and we have been working with Douglas Borough Council to progress a practical solution. We believe the introduction of a single track running along the walkway on the southern end of the promenade and beside the pavement on the northern end will improve traffic flow on the highway and provide a safer and more pleasurable experience for passengers. Hopefully the redevelopment of the Promenade will help to ensure the horse trams continue into the future.’
Subject to Tynwald and planning approval, the £21 million capital project could get under way in November. The Department of Infrastructure will retain overall control of the scheme, although the majority of the work will be carried out by private sector contractors. The intention is to facilitate two-way traffic on the Promenade wherever possible during the life of the work, with access maintained to homes and businesses.
The proposals for Douglas Promenade have been shared with Tynwald Members and the project team is delivering presentations to a number of key stakeholders this week. A public exhibition of the plans is also being staged in the foyer at the Sea Terminal, starting from midday on Friday 8 May.