Religious sect wants to set up Isle of Man base

Isle of Man Today/September 9, 2010

Concerns have been raised with the Lord Bishop over a venture in Lezayre being proposed by a company linked to the leader of a controversial religious sect.

Crossags Ltd is appealing against a decision to refuse planning consent for its application to build an agricultural barn for storage, workshops and living accommodation at Crossags Farm, off Crossags Lane, Ramsey.

Director of Crossags Ltd is German Klaus Pesch, spiritual leader of a global religious organisation called The Team.

Former members of The Team have mounted a highly critical online campaign against the activities of the organisation which they have branded a 'cult'.

A spokesman for the Bishop, the Right Reverend Robert Paterson, confirmed: 'People have expressed concerns to the Bishop's office about the arrival of Mr Pesch and what his plans might be for the Crossag.'

Companies registry shows that Crossags Ltd was incorporated in the Isle of Man on November 25 last year, with its registered office at Ballachrink, Grove Mount, Ramsey.

The company's three directors are Klaus Pesch, Henry Nigel Harrington Chaplin and Robert Terence Easton.

Mr Pesch and Mr Easton are also directors of a second company based at Ballachrink, Bionarc Ltd, which was incorporated on July 23 last year.

Companies registry lists Mr Pesch's address as Ballachrink - the same as Mr Chaplin - and also at Glendrink, Ballaragh Road, Laxey.

He moved out of that rented property towards the end of last year, however.

Crossag Ltd's application (1000247B) was refused on June 16 this year, the planning committee stating that the justification for an agricultural dwelling and barn had 'not been adequately demonstrated'.

Lezayre Commissioners objected to the proposal, expressing concerns about access and adding: 'The commissioners cannot understand why the building is proposed to be sited in the middle of a field.

'They can see no reason for the inclusion of residential accommodation within the building.'

The planning application itself gives few clues.

It states the proposal would be used in connection with the operation of the Crossags Farm and the nearby Crossags Centre.

There would be sheep farming and fruit growing and it had been hoped to graze deer.

Two thirds of the new barn would be used for storage of feed and equipment and a service area while the remaining one third would be living accommodation on two floors, providing a two bedroom property, the application states.

It adds: 'Accommodation would be to cater for work routines and the overlapping of management staff and would provide a facility for sales and marketing.'

A Lezayre resident, who wished to remain anonymous, said: 'People are concerned about the real intentions of the company behind this proposal.'

Ballachrink is currently up for sale with a price tag of £725,000. It includes a five-bedroom semi-detached period home plus new-build property on the site of the old stable block.

When the Examiner contacted Mr Chaplin about the planning application, he told us: 'I'm not the boss - I'm the agent.'

He said one of two people concerned with the application would get in contact. Asked who this would be he confirmed that Mr Easton was one of the people concerned in the application. And Mr Pesch? he was asked. 'Yes,' he replied.

Mr Chaplin rang back the next day to say: 'I've consulted with the other two directors and we have nothing to add or to say in case we prejudice our planning appeal.'

Asked what links, if any, there were to The Team, he replied: 'I can't comment on that.'

The Crossags Centre has been operated for the past 18 years by a Christian-based trust, the Open Gate Trust, for which Mr Chaplin acted as trustee. It hosts national youth groups and is an approved campsite for Scouts and Girlguiding Associations.

Diane Haigh, administrator for Ballaugh Guides, told how after an international Guide camp at the Crossags Centre last month, Mr Pesch told her they would not be welcome back.

Some 75 Guides and leaders from as far afield as Canada, US and New Zealand attended the seven day international camp between August 8 and 15.

In previous years the Guides had been welcomed by trustees, including Mr Chaplin. But this year it was different, Mrs Haigh said.

They were told they could not use the upper terrace for camp fires because a spark might get into the log cabin that was being used by a relative of Mr Pesch named Ralph.

This was subsequently resolved when Ralph agreed to move out of the cabin but leaders of the Girlguide camp were stung by criticism from him about levels of the group's tidiness.

When Mrs Haigh returned to the site on the Monday after the camp, she said she met Klaus Pesch himself in the car park.

She said: 'You could not mistake him with his mop of hair, prominent features and very blue eyes even though he looks older than his picture on the internet.

'We visit the campsite most years and Nigel Chaplin was always extremely fair minded. Klaus Pesch told us that we would not be welcome again.

'We will have to find somewhere else but there is really nowhere else on the Island.'

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