Sect refused permission to have island base

Isle of Man Today, UK/October 20, 2010

A company linked to the leader of a controversial religious sect has lost its planning appeal over a venture it had proposed in Lezayre.

Concerns have been raised with the Bishop over the arrival of German Klaus Pesch in the island and what his plans might be for Crossags Farm.

Herr Pesch, spiritual leader of a global religious organisation called The Team, is a director of Crossags Ltd which was refused planning permission in June this year for its proposal to erect an agricultural barn featuring living accommodation, a workshop and storage area.

The planning committee questioned the need for the barnhouse which would be located in the middle of a field at Crossags Farm and hidden away from other buildings.

Crossags Ltd, based at Ballachrink, Grove Mount, Ramsey, appealed.

And now following a planning inquuiry held last month, Infrastructure Minister Phil Gawne MHK has agreed with planning inspector David Bushby's recommendation that the appeal be dismissed.

The appellants admitted they had no farming experience but wanted to grow in the upper field 14 acres of sea buckthorn - which produces orange berry-like fruit from which oils can be extracted that can be used in anti-aging creams and natural treatments for eczema and acne.

Their proposal was to cultivate the lower field for vegetables. The aim was to start planting in April next year.

The proposed barn with living accommodation was a familiar arrangement in Europe, they told the inquiry, with the agricultural worker needing to live on site for reasons of security and to look after the equipment. It would be hidden away to give some privacy.

But the planning committee told the inquiry there were concerns about allowing the barn to be built in an isolated position for a farm operation that did not yet exist.

'The appellants do not have any farming experience. Also the fruit - sea buckthorn - takes a long time to grow. This is therefore an unproven scheme. If it failed a fairly large building plus a driveway would be left in an isolated position, 77 metres from the nearest other buildings.'

The committee argued the proposed living accommodation was not justified. 'There is no justification for living on the site; Ramsey is very close.'

Lezayre Commissioners said the proposal should be refused as it was not a viable agricultural building.

Recommending the appeal be dismissed, planning inspector Mr Bushby concluded it would be wrong to permit a new building before the agricultural enterprise existed in case that venture did not start, or failed, leaving a barn in an isolated countryside location for which there was 'no special need'.

He noted that Crossags Cottage seemed to be currently occupied by an advisor to the appellants - a Ralph Mueller - who is related to Herr Pesch.

'It is not entirely clear why this property [ie Crossags Cottage] could not be used initially if there was a need for an agricultural worker to live near to the appeal site,' he added.

Isle of Man Newspapers reported last month that leaders of an International Guide Camp at the nearby Crossags Centre were told by Mr Pesch that they would not be welcome back.

Guide leaders were concerned to arrive for the Camp to find Ralph Mueller living in the log cabin at the centre although he subsequently moved out.

We also reported a statement from a spokesman for the Bishop, the Right Reverend Robert Paterson, who said: 'People have expressed concerns to the Bishop's office about the arrival of Mr Pesch and what his plans might be for the Crossag.'

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