Michael Leather has announced his candidacy for the constituency of Onchan in this year’s General Election.
Mr Leather is a retired hotel owner and this is the first time he has stood for the Keys.
Speaking to Gef, Mr Leather said investing in Douglas’ tourism sector would be one of his main priorities if elected, as it would benefit the whole island.
He said: ‘After looking at the promenade fiasco and several other ideas, it obviously needs someone who knows what they’re talking about. I have a masters degree in commercial property management and a bachelors in building surveying. My idea is to bring back tourism, I don’t know if you’re aware of this but Douglas’ town centre and promenades are in a flood zone area, this has been known by government for many years. As you can imagine, not only is parking in Douglas horrendous, but it is going to get worse. So what I thought was why not build a new sea wall, but take it 200m out.
‘When you take it 200m out, you then have quite a lot of land to build on. I would take it from the War Memorial to the Victoria Pier, which would give approximately 49-and-a-half acres. Instead of filling it in, you make two levels. The ground level could be for car parking or whatever, the next level could be for shopping precincts, supermarkets, shops, literally anything. The top level also would be open season for anything, cafes, restaurants, whatever people want to build. And near or close to the sea wall, you’d build new modern hotels with conference facilities which could then be used for several things, for example Pokerstars could use them to stage poker tournaments.
‘Now the thing about the Victoria Pier is that despite being a tourism destination, we can’t accommodate a cruise ship. So what I would suggest is to build a new pier extension running parallel to the Victoria Pier and digging out the centre. The way to protect that in bad weather would be to extend the Battery Pier so if you have a cruise ship come in, then it can turn in between the two piers and face outwards.’
This would represent the major extension of the promenades in over a century, with the original sea wall being at the back of WH Smith before it was extended out and eventually reached its current location in 1878.
Mr Leather said that his idea would require the gov to build the sea wall and then to sell the space to private investors for development of hotels and other businesses, but this would reclaim a substantial amount of the initial outlay. He added that with the dual risk of gov finances and the likely introduction of a new corporate rate for tax means the island needs to find a ‘Plan B’ for the economy to ensure there are jobs on the island.
In order to boost the new plans, Mr Leather said that there is a need for cheaper travel to the island, but he stopped short of advocating for more gov interference in the running of the Steam Packet.
Turning to local issues, Mr Leather said that Onchan Commissioners ‘are doing an extremely good job’ and said that local authorities should manage most local issues and that the job of an MHK is to represent the constituents at a national level addressing national issues. However he said that, if elected, he would work with the local authority to achieve its aims while also representing the concerns and needs of the constituents in Tynwald. He said: ‘You have to be there for your constituency. And that’s the main reasons for an MHK is to fight for those people and if something has been unjust, then they need to go to their MHK because you can’t go to court because it costs so much money for people and most won’t go because they can’t afford it os you have to be there to help them and to assist them.’
Mr Leather joins sitting MHKs Rob Callister and Julie Edge in declaring his intention to stand in Onchan.
The General Election is on Thursday, September 23. If you’re planning to vote, make sure you’re registered and if you’re planning to stand, make sure you let Gef know by emailing email@example.com.