Proposed Longwave Station Suffers Setback

The international longwave radio station project proposed by Isle of Man International Broadcasting (IMIB) has suffered a further serious delay after planning permission for the aerial site was rejected on the grounds of visual impact. An independent planning inspector from Northern Ireland told Isle of Man Government Ministers in a lengthy report, that the Company's proposals were contrary to the 1982 policies on land use and would be harmful to the visual amenities in the area chosen.

In the report, the Inspector dismissed the other claims put forward by objectors.
"The rejection of the application on the grounds of noise would not be warranted ," said Mr Hawthorne. He also agreed with the Director of Health, the Assessor and the applicant, who refuted suggestions about the dangers to health or any adverse effects on ecology from the longwave signals.

The Inspector also rejected objections about the possibility of interference.
"The matter of possible interference is a matter for the Radiocommunications Agency," said Mr Hawthorne in the report. "Planning authorities should not seek to usurp the powers of other regulatory bodies."

The report is the latest obstacle for the company which was established in 1994 to operate the radio station which would be heard across the British Isles and into Europe on 279kHz, longwave.

"While we are disappointed by the outcome of the Special Inquiry, we are comforted by the fact that from a long list of allegations made against the application, the only valid concerns have been found to be visual impact and land use," said Paul Rusling, the project's founder, who vowed that the project will continue. "The site was the best of 48 locations we considered on engineering grounds, and is in a pretty remote location. While there are several other less intrusive places we could site the CFA, moving to these will impact upon the coverage we shall be able to achieve."

At the Inquiry it was revealed that moving the transmission site away from the northern tip of the Island would necessitate a fresh application for frequency clearance to the ITU in Geneva. "We are sure other countries will be very keen to get hold of this frequency," explained Rusling. "New longwave stations are already being set up in other nearby countries to broadcast into the UK. The frequency is a valuable resource which which won't lie fallow for long."

IMIB's Chairman, Ron Spencer said, "Although this is a setback to the company's progress, the Inspector has clearly been most diligent in his analysis of the many complex issues involved and the wide range of concerns which were raised."

"I accept that the proposal would assist to a degree in diversifying the economy [of the Isle of Man]," says the Inspector in his recommendation, which took cognisance of the potential benefits to the Island, although he said that the creation of between thirty and fifty new jobs in the North and the diversification of the Island's economy was not a need which would outweigh visual impact objections.

Mr. Hawthorne recalled in his report that the existence of Radio Luxembourg made a considerable impact on the public awareness of that country and he notes that the current Classic FM sponsorship by the Barbados Tourist Authority is clearly in pursuit of such increased publicity.

"We remain convinced that the Long Wave radio station will prove to be of considerable benefit to the Isle of Man in the long term," said Ron Spencer, "not only through direct revenues and diversification of employment, but in terms of the favourable media coverage that will accrue. We shall now reconsider our plans in the light the Inspector's findings and consult again with the appropriate agencies to ensure that Tynwald's [the Island's parliament] aspirations for a Manx international radio station can be realised," said Mr Spencer.

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