STATES OF JERSEY
FRIDAY, 17th JULY 2020
1.Priorities for the next Island Plan
1.1Deputy J.H. Young of St. Brelade (The Minister for the Environment):
1.2Priorities for the next Island Plan - section 1
1.2.1Deputy J.H. Young:
1.2.2Deputy J.H. Perchard of St. Saviour:
1.2.3Deputy S.G. Luce of St. Martin:
1.2.4Deputy G.J. Truscott of St. Brelade:
1.2.5Deputy K.G. Pamplin of St. Saviour:
1.2.6Deputy K.F. Morel of St. Lawrence:
1.2.7Deputy R. Labey of St. Helier:
1.2.8Senator S.Y. Mézec:
1.2.9Connétable R.A. Buchanan of St. Ouen:
1.2.10Deputy J.H. Young:
1.3Priorities for the next Island Plan - section 2
1.3.1Deputy J.H. Young:
1.3.2Deputy I. Gardiner of St. Helier:
1.3.3The Deputy of St. Martin:
1.3.4Connétable S.A. Le Sueur-Rennard of St. Saviour:
1.3.5Deputy L.M.C. Doublet of St. Saviour:
1.3.6Deputy R.J. Ward of St. Helier:
1.3.7Senator S.Y. Mézec:
1.3.8Deputy R. Labey:
1.3.9Deputy R.J. Renouf of St. Ouen:
1.3.10Connétable R. Vibert of St. Peter:
1.3.11Deputy M.R. Higgins of St. Helier:
1.3.12Connétable P.B. Le Sueur of Trinity:
LUNCHEON ADJOURNMENT PROPOSED
1.3.13Deputy G.P. Southern of St. Helier:
1.3.14Deputy K.C. Lewis of St. Saviour:
1.3.15Deputy T. Pointon of St. John:
1.3.16Deputy D. Johnson of St. Mary:
1.3.17Senator L.J. Farnham:
1.3.18Deputy K.F. Morel:
1.3.19Deputy R.E. Huelin of St. Peter:
1.3.20The Connétable of St. Ouen:
1.3.21Deputy G.J. Truscott:
1.3.22Senator S.W. Pallett:
1.3.23The Deputy of St. Martin:
1.3.24Deputy M. Tadier:
1.3.25Connétable L. Norman of St. Clement:
1.3.26Connétable D.W. Mezbourian of St. Lawrence:
1.3.27Senator T.A. Vallois:
1.3.28Deputy K.G. Pamplin:
1.3.29Senator S.C. Ferguson:
1.3.30Connétable M.K. Jackson of St. Brelade:
1.3.31Deputy J.H. Young:
ARRANGEMENT OF PUBLIC BUSINESS FOR FUTURE MEETINGS
2.Deputy R. Labey (Chair, Privileges and Procedures Committee):
The Roll was called and the Dean led the Assembly in Prayer.
The Deputy Greffier of the States (in the Chair):
We start this meeting, as Members know, which will deal solely with the issue of the Island Plan in-committee debate. As the Bailiff outlined yesterday we set aside the morning for this debate. The Minister for the Environment has produced a running order and the proposal is that after a 10 minute introduction from him there will be a period of 10 minutes or so to discuss the changes to the process and the plan, following which there will be an hour long session discussing the 3-year Bridging Plan, the change to process for lodging and approval and the decoupling of the plan from the Migration Policy. The Bailiff intends to invite the Minister to then make his second speech at around 11.00 a.m., in which area he will be discussing the key planning challenges, including the spatial strategy, affordable homes and sustainable communities, economic recovery, use of road space and protecting the environment. That period of time for Members to discuss that will last for around about an hour and a half and then Minister’s closing remarks will be in the final 15 minutes. Of course, the Assembly is the master of this and so if, during the course of the morning, Members wish to extend the time period for any of these areas that have been put set up by the Minister then that is a matter for them. If we could start by calling on the Minister for the Environment to introduce his debate.
Today I want to begin with a couple of thank yous. Thank you to Members for agreeing to hold this session this morning because I am here with my team in full, I have Assistant Minister, Gregory Guida with me and we will be sharing some of the reporting back today, and the Island Plan team that I think most of you know - they are Steve Skelton, Kevin Pilley and Natasha Day. Obviously the point of today is we are very much going to be on listening mode because the whole purpose of this special sitting, this is the first time it has been done, is to right up front, ahead of drafting the plan, we find out about what is in your hearts and minds about what you would like to see, what your expectations are in the plans and what are your aspirations. It is novel process and we will give it a try. As the Chair as said, we are very much in your hands. If you want to spend more time on the big issues, on the second part, and less time on the process, I would be happy to do that and we will listen to Members and what they say during the debate. We have published a couple of documents to help. There is a R report that has a bit of an explanation on every one of the main questions, and I think we have posed 10 questions for you which are the key questions. In that paper those key questions are in the boxes and that is particularly the focus of what we would like to hear from you. Of course, we have to recognise … my hope was of course that we would be talking about a 10-year plan, but we are not where we wanted to be. For all the reasons that Members … and I think I have explained but I am happy to go over it if Members want to, we are proposing to do a 3-year Bridging Plan, which will enable us to be able to deal with the situation as it is now, what we need to do now, the key things, the key challenges in the plan. I am very hopeful that it will be a very comprehensive plan still but there will be some things, because of the uncertainty, that have to go on to the next Assembly who will then need to do a follow up plan. I think most Members saw the … I think 28 Members were kind enough to attend the Island Plan briefing meeting but for those that did not we did send around the presentation, the PowerPoint presentation which you should have, which may provide you some of the detail to help the kind of process part of the debate and also what we think is the content of the plan and what is not. Now, just a couple of things of what the plan is set out to do. It seeks to balance the environmental, economic and social objectives. That is kind of the golden goal, sustainability. In reality of course it will define what sort of place Jersey is and its character because there is no question our physical environment affects all of us in all sorts of ways and the quality of life, not just for resident but also for visitors. Fundamental to any decent plan is that it has full engagement of both the States Members and our community. That is fundamental. A plan that goes through, which is kind of done behind the scenes, with no involvement frankly would fail. I want to try and help us on the road to building that consensus. Now, we have spoken already about … I think we have published out there as well … we did a public consultation on the key issues. I cannot quite remember when we published it, it seems a long time ago before the pandemic but we were able to get the conclusions of that so we know what the people’s initial responses are, we have provided that and we have put, you know, where we have drawn reference for that in the R report that we published for you today. What I think today is about setting the … identifying the issues and the kind of direction of response that we want to make to deal with them. I do not think it is about individual sites. I know Member will have in their minds: “I would like to see this develop for this, this and this.” That may be very valid and feel free to do that if you wish but I would request Members to try and focus on the broader picture. We will be picking up that steer. I think that covers probably the general introduction and I think I probably now need to go to the first session if I may, unless there are any Members that want to raise any question on what I have said by introductory remarks and I will pause there to see if there are any questions to answer.
I can see a chat so if there is anything there, please I will try and respond to it. I will wait 10 seconds.
The Deputy Greffier of the States (in the Chair):
I think, Minister, it appears that Members are anxious to speak on section 1.
I will carry on then. What we have all seen since March it has disrupted all our lives and businesses and Government. The immediate effects are obvious but there is huge uncertainty in order to be able to plan for the next 10 years. So, as I say, we have adopted a shorter timescale but the plan … we cannot be certain about the likely effects of the pandemic so I think we covered that. The plan will cover 2022, 2023 and 2024 and that is important. What that has left us with is the rest of this year and 2021 to produce the plan and get it to the Assembly before the May 2022 elections. That is quite important. It is pretty critical, it is really tight. Now, I think one of the first questions I want to hear from the Members when we talk about that is, is the proposed adoption of a 3-year Bridging Plan an appropriate response to be able to progress community planning meters in a period of uncertainty. I think that is one of the first questions in part 1. The process that we would normally adopt has to change in order to do that and therefore what we have tried to do is to avoid taking shortcuts but a key change is that we are going to have to go to public consultation with the draft plan having been produced in draft at the very same time that we put that to States Members and seek their views in parallel. I think in practical terms that probably means that States Members will not have the benefit of a shaped-up view coming from the community. Obviously parts of it will be known, there may well be some lobbying and campaigning but, nonetheless, we need to have that in parallel because the intention is, of course, that the outcome of that will then have to be reviewed by a ministerial team as to whether adjustments to the draft plan are required or not and that will then go into a planning inquiry. I suppose there will be a chance, of course, for Members that are not happy that things are in or things that are not in that they wanted in, we will have to use that process to be able to examine those issues in detail and come to a view. Of course out of that process comes an inspector’s report. Most Members know, I think, that of course that report is public, the Members will see it and then I as Minister and my team will have to respond to it and decide what changes we make to the draft plan. Then finally it goes to the States. Of course, Members are entitled, fully entitled, to bring amendments. It is possible that we could have a lot of amendments and the debate would be very complex. What I want to try and do is get as many things identified early so we reduce the chance for that happening. One of the key things is … and I come now to the evidence base. This is possibly the most controversial area. The Members will know that I have always sought to have a Migration Policy agreed by the States as fundamental to the Island Plan because that will enable us to draft the appropriate land uses, define the housing requirements, be very clear about what the community’s need is for infrastructure, for housing, for schools and everything else that flows from drains, water supply, everything flows in planning terms from our population. Now, of course, we knew where the population was from estimates, I suppose, but I think they are very reliable estimates produced by our Statistics Unit at the end of 2019. But we do not know for sure … there have been some indications out there of what have been the changes in our population during the pandemic. Anecdotally we think a lot of people may have left, some others may be planning to leave, we do not know. It depends very much as I see that on the economic outturn and what happens with jobs. That is unknown as we face a winter and who knows what is going to happen in that. Therefore we cannot just have a loose plan without that, without having an assumption. The plan on this basis is going to have to make a planning assumption for the population for that period 2022, 2023 and 2024. What are the tools we have to do that? Well, we will have the Statistics Unit who have superb systems of, I think, picking up data from all of the States systems, social security, employment information, income tax. We will know, of course, what comes through the payroll support schemes. They will be able to give us that assumption. I think that is really key to what the plan will provide. From my point of view I think the 3-year plan does give an opportunity, if you like, to catch up. That is way I see it but Members may not agree. I think there are a number of areas of Island life where we have not provided what we need for housing, where we have not provided or geared up all of our infrastructure appropriately for what we need and those things, the priority issues, I am hoping we can talk about as we go through. Now, according to my clock it is coming up to 9.55 a.m. so I am slightly ahead in my introduction. I am going to turn around and see if my colleagues think I have missed anything. Well, in that case, Madam Chair, if I now can open up the discussion on those 3 issues, which is about the 3-year Plan, to the kind of nuts and bolts of the way we are going to produce the plan, with the changes of the lodging process and approvals, the kind of parallel running of consultation, which will happen early next year. So we are assuming we will be able to have decent stakeholder engagement events. Then the big issue about decoupling the 3-year Plan from our Migration Policy. Obviously officers will be taking notes and Gregory and I will be listening to what you have to say in the next hour. I will stop speaking there if I may.
The Deputy Greffier of the States (in the Chair):
Thank you, Minister. The first person on the list is Deputy Perchard.
I would like to start by thanking the Minister and officers for this comprehensive document in advance of the debate. For me it gives the debate great focus and purpose. It has been incredibly helpful to have these specific questions so thank you for that. I will go through them just quite systematically for the benefit of officers and the Minister. The first question the Minister posed was regarding the adoption of a 3-year Bridging Island Plan. I think that this is an excellent idea, I personally think that waiting 10 years, as has been the case and the Minister alluded to in his speech, does not keep up with current trends. The only thing I would have said is if it was up to me I think I would want to do it annually rather than 3 years because I think that our community and society changes so rapidly. I wonder if, in the future, there would be a possibility to do that in a way that was not too cumbersome but was kind of a topping up process, an annual review of the plan just to ensure that it is up to date and on track. I do not know how feasible that is in terms of the process but I am very much in favour of the 3-year Bridging Plan, I think that is very sensible. On question 2, the question was around the process, so delivering a new Island Plan before the end of the current term means lodging a draft at the same time as it goes out or public consultation. I think this is really messy and I think it is going to make it very complicated. Largely because Members will be doing work that may, in fact, end up being duplicated. I may work on an amendment that the department ends up bringing forward as a result of the public consultation. While I can see the benefit of the time saved from one perspective, in another way it wastes time because of the duplication. However, what I would say is if this is a consequence of moving to the 3-year Bridging Plan for the very first time and it is a one-off fudge, then I would be willing to put up with it. But I absolutely would not expect to be put in that position every 3 years. I would expect that by the next time the process can be changed so that that duplication of time, effort and work does not happen, but I would accept that more messy process for the very first time so that we can get things going. I hope that is helpful to the Minister. Finally, on the third question about decoupling the plan from longer-term Migration Policy, I absolutely think you cannot have a Migration Policy and an Island Plan that are not informed by one another. I would not be in favour of them being decoupled. However, again, I think that what the Minister is trying to do here with the Island Plan is the right way and what I would suggest is that migration policy and the process around that needs to catch up with this. I would not necessarily say to the Minister: “Do not do what is being proposed today,” I would say to the Council of Ministers and I suppose the Chief Minister with responsibility for the Migration Policy, I would say to them: “Please update your processes and procedures and policy development for the Migration Policy so that it matches this process.” Again, I would like to see an annual process for Migration Policy. I particularly think that that should be quite easy to track numbers of people coming in, people going out and the natural growth due to births and deaths. That is something that we could easily have a view on. I think that what we need is a clear sense of the vision, the long and short-term vision, of the population size in Jersey. I have also been an advocate of a population cap. That does not mean people cannot come in, it means no growth. So what it means is net zero. We have approximately, I think, about 1,200 people leave every year, and I am not counting for births and deaths here, just migration. So we have about 1,200 emigrate and so we have about an average of 1,000 spots to 1,200 spots open up every year. I am talking about migration here, to me it is completely relevant to the Island Plan. In my view, we could sustain the economy by improving productivity and by having a targeted Migration Policy that is related to the dependency ratio, so we have set targets on whether people can or cannot move to Jersey based on a whole range of factors, including their skillset but also their age, their family ties, a whole range of things, that could mean that we could cope with reducing our intake from 2,000 a year to 1,000 a year, which would sustain the population at a level. If we do not do anything to reduce the current average yearly intake of people we will reach 200,000 people in my lifetime. So for me that is not just viable. The Island Plan, if it is not related to the Migration Policy … if the Migration Policy does not catch up with the Island Plan in terms of process, the Island Plan will be fighting a battle because we might agree as an Assembly: “Well, I want 50 per cent of the Island to stay green, I do not mind which 50 per cent” you know, give you flexibility to move thing around dependent on need but if the Migration Policy says: “No, we are happy with reaching 200,000 over the next 60 years” the Island Plan will face a battle and the only option will be to build upwards, which is another restriction we might vote on anyway.
We might say, well, we do not want high-rise so we are going to block that, we do not want more than 50 per cent of the Island not green, we are going to block that. Then you have a battle of policies and precedents will then become political, politically driven. So for me it does not make sense to separate them but what should happen is we should commend the Minister for Planning for bringing this approach, that is definitely my preference, and we should encourage the Chief Minister to match this approach with the Migration Policy, have a clear long-term vision of population size going forward and then work backwards from that, like you do with any good teaching year, you pick your end goal, you work backwards from that and at intervals of 3 years, which match with the Island Plan or hopefully annually in the future, both can be reviewed in tandem to ensure that we are providing enough housing, that the economy is viable and sustainable, that we are being economically and environmentally sustainable and we are maintaining some of the natural beauty of the Island without overcrowding, without overbuilding, without overpopulating Jersey and losing its unique character. I think those 2 things have to be done together. I know many Members want to speak today so I am going to stop there and I hope that has been of help. Thank you.
The Deputy Greffier of the States (in the Chair):
Thank you, Deputy. Next on the list is the Deputy of St. Martin.
I will try to be as brief as I can. Question 1 is about whether we need this 3-year plan and the obvious answer is of course that we do because we need a new Island Plan. COVID has put a 6-month hold on everything, we have to move forward so the answer is we just have to get on and do it. My worry is that we lose sight of long-term goals and in putting a short-term plan in, we just basically tread water for 3 years and we cannot afford to do that. We have to make sure we look at these long-term goals and put them in the plan and one of the questions the Minister posed is: “What are the essential things to do?” I would have almost gone the other way and said: “What do we put into a 10-year plan? Which parts can we afford not to do in the 3-year plan and see what we are left with rather than trying to identify what we have to do at the start?” Anyway, question 1, I think, is a bit of a no-brainer. Question 2 is about the process and I agree with Deputy Perchard in some ways about it. It is going to be messy having public consultation and States Members’ Amendments at the same point but something I do like about this proposal is the one that it is going to mean that States Members have to come forward with their amendments in a much greater time span before the States debate. I have always been really concerned of the ability for States Members to come forward with Island Plan Amendments literally just a few weeks before the debate. It does not give officers the time to go away and do the appropriate amount of consultation and work. Officers are therefore not in a position to advise States Members of the proper consequences of decisions they may take in the Island Plan debate. I really like the idea of a big gap between States Members’ Amendments and the debate itself because it gives the team a real chance to address the consequences of those amendments. The other thing, of course, is if the system does not work well, it is a 3-year plan and we can trial it, if you like, and come back for the 10-year plan in 2024 and if it does not go well, we can amend it again. Question 3 is about the appropriateness of decoupling migration from the Island Plan. I take Deputy Perchard’s views onboard but my view is I think we can at this instance because we know what we have to do in the next 3 or 4 years and that is continue to build a whole load of housing. We do not need a Population Policy to tell us that. We just have to keep going flat out. If we are going to drive down the cost of housing, the cost of rent, we have to provide more product. I know that, in itself, challenges and heats up the construction industry which, in itself, then creates a construction inflation which makes it more expensive. We have to address the housing issue and we do not need a Migration Policy in order to know the answer to the question that is: “How many houses do we need to build?” We just need to build loads and loads of them, as much as we can. If we went ahead and built as much as we can in the next 3 or 4 years, it will not make any difference to where we are for the 10-year plan because we know we need to come up with those houses. I think that is as much as I want to say. We desperately need a Migration Policy but I would urge Members, on behalf of the Minister, let us not make this a debate about the pros and cons of what we want to put in a Migration Policy. This is about the Island Plan. I think I will leave it there for now, come back later and let somebody else speak. Thank you.
To follow on from the Immigration Policy, for me, it is absolutely key. I think we have all stood on the doorsteps of Islanders and promised some control in by the end of this term so I am holding the Chief Minister to account on this one. We really do need to deliver an Immigration Policy. It is key going forward. I do not want to be a total control freak over this but it is just taking control of people coming in. The economy could demand more people but it is the fact that we take control and we know if we want 50 nurses, we open 50 licences for 50 nurses. It is as simple as that. We had a good debate yesterday with Deputy Huelin in his first Proposition and it was all about data. I think it is crucial. We have the census coming up so that will feed very nicely into the Island Plan. We really need to know how many people are on the Island, their ages and the demographic, et cetera. It is so important. That is one that has to be ticked. I think there is a piece of work in train currently but do we know how many people want one-bedroom flats, 2-bedroom or 3-bedroom? How much affordable housing do we need to build? How many 2, 3 and 4-bedroom houses do we need to build? We just do not know, I do not think anyway. We may have a rough idea but I am all for building up a database that we can reliably call on to make informed decisions and I think that is so important going forward as well. My concern about the bridging idea is that we are in the midst of a pandemic and we do not know how this is going to play out. It might be a good time to take stock and gather all the information that we require. I am just going to act as devil’s advocate on this one just to see if the law or the current plan can be carried forward possibly. We do the piece of work in the meantime and gather all the information, do the Census in 2021 and then, plainly, there is only 18 or 19 months to a new Assembly and let them take the mantle. I am just putting that out there, Minister, so if you could pick up on that idea and perhaps bring back your ideas on it. I have to say I have been on the Planning Committee now for the best part of 6 years and the current Island Plan has served us extremely well but certainly in that time, I have seen some absolutely enormous planning changes in the Island. We have made great progress and I think the building standards and various other things have come on in leaps and bounds so I have been proud to work with fellow colleagues on the Planning Committee. It has been a really good experience. We are in the midst of a pandemic. Is it time to take stock and really work out a meaningful plan based on data, based on fact, coupled with an Immigration Policy? I think that, for me, might be the way forward but I am very interested to hear from other Members this morning. Thank you.
Good morning, Members, and thank you, Minister, as well for this. This is a good structured way of doing things. I will breakdown the 3 points. Deputy Perchard has covered a lot of what I was going to say and I echo some of the comments of the Deputy of St. Martin. The 3-year Bridging Plan does make sense and I think the important part here, if things change, how quickly Members are informed of things because things will change quickly. The Minister himself alluded to it. We cannot get away from the fact that we have just come out of the first part of the pandemic affecting us locally and the effects will of course be felt later this year and next year. With my health head on, we are furiously scrutinising the Jersey Care Model. That is a huge piece of work to be considered by this Assembly at the end of this year. That will have a big impact on future generations in how we provide healthcare and how that is fitted into the future of this Island. Of course, the hospital is back on people’s conscience. What I am trying to get across here in this 3-year Bridging Plan is it makes sense but there are some huge items coming down the line for this Assembly and effectively we are about to have a summer recess of briefings. In September, we have a brand new Government Plan that we have to wrap our heads around and the results of the economic situation we find ourselves in. We have one year, next year, and then after that it is all eyes on the last few months towards an election. We do not want to see the situation which the previous Assembly saw which was rushing things through right up to the last day of the sitting Assembly. It is absolutely critical I believe in this new version of doing things that everybody is on the same page in terms of what pressures and levers are being pulled and we are not just rushing, so no one feels under pressure, because the whole thing would collapse I believe. That echoes the lodging and approvals process as well. I know the Minister and Members will be aware there are some thoughts being put forward by the Chair of P.P.C. (Privileges and Procedures Committee) on how the States Assembly could operate. I think we really have to now take that seriously and what is going to be in the best interest of the process of this Assembly. We have had so many emergency sittings this year. What if more are needed? We also have a lot of emergency legislation that we really need to come back to, that we approved, that should fall away this September. Regarding the decoupling plan, I share the concerns of others, but I think I will wait to hear from more Members on this. I like it in principle and the Minister knows this as I keep talking about it every time. The theory previously where the Census came after the Island Plan did not make sense to me. Surely, there is a process here that we can realign with the Census and I can already hear the Deputy of St. Peter foot stamping when I mention the word. That data is going to be so important especially because of the after-effect of the pandemic, the knock-on it is going to have for migration, for seasonal workers and for our young students going and coming back from college. I mention those things at this stage but I think this is a very constructive approach to an in-committee debate and I thank the Minister for that. Thank you.
I am partly echoing some of the things that have been said but I will also, hopefully, be adding a few new things. The idea of this Bridging Plan, yes, fine, circumstances perhaps dictate it but I fear there is a chance that very little of it will be achieved. On the positive side, it does mean that any problems with it can be revised quite quickly in 3 years’ time. There is a problem with the Bridging Plan that it will create a level of uncertainty because we know we will be going straight into a new debate very shortly after the election in 2022 to bring the new plan online. Yes, I understand why it is being done. It is not great but I appreciate the Minister is in this situation. I am however concerned about the consultation period. Deputy Perchard referred to it as being “messy”. I could not agree more. If it is not handled very carefully, it could be seen by the public and other States Members that the Government is driving the plan through. If that was to be the feeling about it, then this would undermine Islanders’ faith in the plan and, for me, that is the really big issue. There cannot be a sense that the plan is being driven through by publishing that draft and by doing all the consultation at the same time. It will have to be very carefully handled by the Minister to ensure that people feel that it is not just the Government’s Island Plan but the Island’s Island Plan. I cannot help but think that despite the Deputy of St. Martin’s comment that decoupling is inappropriate and the reason for that is the Government has had more than 2 years to bring in a migration population policy so we should not be in this position.
The main reason is that while I can appreciate the Deputy of St. Martin’s comments about needing to build houses, it is not just about housing but also understanding the infrastructure needs that come with whatever levels of population are expected in, let us say, the next 20 years or so. An Island Plan which does not take into account those infrastructure needs could cause problems further down the line. The hospital has been mentioned by Deputy Pamplin and to be honest, building a hospital for an unknown population is in itself, at least on the face of it, rather silly. Yes, I appreciate you can add and extend, et cetera, but this lack of Population Policy target is going to cause a real problem to a number of areas so I know it is an aside but the Government really does need to bring that forward as quickly as possible. I am mostly concerned about the consultation period. Islanders must have faith in the plan and it is going to be very much down to the Minister to ensure that they can have faith in the plan. Otherwise, it will be a worthless document. Thank you.
Good morning. I think it is worth saying at the outset of this that planning has got so much better recently. Before I left the Island in 1989 when I was working as a journalist, planning was hitting the headlines nearly every week with one eyesore or another. I was interviewing John Le Sueur, the then President, almost weekly and we have come a long way. We have a much better process and I have huge respect for the Planning Department and those that I work with on the Planning Committee because they care, they are passionate, they work very hard and it is a difficult job. I do think the plan is in urgent need of revision however and I will take what I can get in terms of 3 years. There must be a reason why an Island Plan had a life of 10 years. Perhaps it is because some applications take 3 years to gestate one application. Deputy Morel touched on uncertainty. If I am the applicant of one of those big applications that takes a long time, what happens if I do not have my permission but I have done 3 years of pre-application planning with the department and I am in the interregnum and the new Island Plan is coming along, which one takes precedence? The one I have been working to or the new one that has just been passed? It is not ideal but if we have to do it, we have to do it.
I will not speak for too long on this part of the debate but I did want to start by just praising the Minister for the Environment and all of his officers for what must have been very difficult work to continue doing over the last few months as everything else has been happening. I have certainly been impressed by some of the output that I have seen from them while that has been going on, which is really good to see. On some of the questions that there are for this process part of the debate, I do not necessarily have amazingly strong feelings either way on some of it. I think though that it is worth supporting the Minister for the Environment ultimately because this is going to be a very difficult piece of work, and, frankly, none of what comes forward will be considered perfect by everyone. Whatever conclusions are settled on, we will have to get behind 100 per cent to make the most out of it and get the most out of this process for the Island. The one point I do want to make though is that with a 3-year plan to start out with, the fact that it is a shortened version or pre-empting the wider plan that will come as a result of it, should not be an excuse for that 3-year version lacking ambition. One of the very first debates I took part in when I was elected as a States Member was the revision to the Island Plan that took place in 2014 and that happened just after the by-election I was elected in but before the General Election and that was to make revisions to what had originally been passed as a 10-year Island Plan. I did not know what to expect from that debate when it happened. It ended up going on, I think, for longer than a week and there were loads of amendments that came through, some of which were absolutely nonsensical, some which were informed by nothing at all apart from just a hunch that a constituency representative had and obviously that is their right to do and their right to pursue but it does not mean you get a better product at the end of it. Some amendments were rejected but the planning has since gone ahead to develop on those sites which has turned out to be a good thing and some things have been excluded which is a real shame because they have ended up being lost opportunities. This idea of having a 3-year starting plan is sort of the opposite to what ended up happening to the last Island Plan that had a shortened version towards the end of it rather than the start. If we are doing it this way around this time, it cannot lack ambition. Deputy Luce I think made the point really well saying something along the lines of: “We just need to get on with it and build loads of houses” and he is absolutely right there. We know that irrespective of what the Migration Policy ends up being, we know that we need to build more homes for people. Deputy Truscott asked about the breakdown of those homes and how many 2, 3 or 4-beds do we need and he said: “We just do not know.” I do not agree with that. There is the Objective Assessment of Housing Needs Report which was published at the beginning of last year or possibly at the end of the year before that went through all of the data that we have about people’s housing situations now, what the trends have been, what the breakdown is in terms of what is affordable for particular households and whether they are people who are more likely to be in social housing or want to be owner occupiers, et cetera. It mapped out what it predicted the demand would be for each of those categories of housing broken down by tenure and broken down by bedrooms; 2, 3, 4-bed owner occupier, 2, 3, 4-bed social rental, 2, 3, 4-bed private rental, qualified or non-qualified. It did the whole lot and predicted what the need was going to be over the next 10 years based on different migration scenarios so predicted it on the basis of net zero up to I think net 1,000. You can argue some of that will end up being highly inaccurate because of what has happened with migration recently and what could potentially happen in the future but at least it gives us some sort of understanding of what the constants are; what things do not change with whatever Migration Policy you adopt. Even if we were to adopt somehow a net nil policy, we still need more homes. That basic point of needing more homes, it is a truth irrespective of what the Migration Policy is and we just need to get on with it. It is also the case that, again, even with a net zero position, the need for more social homes over the next 10 years does not change much with what your migration scenario is because people do not become eligible for social housing until they have lived here for 10 years. Even if we adopted that policy today, we would still have 10 years of need that we need to build through this process. I think we do have a good selection of data out there to help inform some of this and we cannot hold back on those ambitions to build new homes while we wait for the more comprehensive plan to kick in after this 3-year starting point. There are plenty of sites out there both in public and private ownership that some of our housing delivery agents are looking at and thinking: “For goodness sake, just give it to us and we will get on with it.” They have the capacity, they have the expertise to get the best use out of these sites. I have been thinking recently, with Andium Homes in particular, that it would be fairly reasonable to rename it from Andium Homes to Andium Homes and Community because of the amount of provision they are looking to create for communities, whether that is new nursery buildings, or premises for some of the charities. They are ready to go. They do not need us to be extra cautious for the sake of it. If they are given a green light to go ahead with these things, they will go ahead and do them so let us not hold back our ambition if that is what this Assembly determines to adopt with this process. We can still get on with it so let us not hold back.
I will start by endorsing … and I am sure the Minister for Children and Housing will be completely shocked by this because it is not often I agree with him but I do entirely agree with his comments about the need to build houses now. We know that there is a desperate shortage of housing for the people that are already in Jersey and he is quite right that we need to, as part of this plan, get on and identify that there are sites that are available. We just need to get on with it and build those houses. My concerns relate to the third part of this question. I understand completely why the Minister for the Environment has decided to have a 3-year Bridging Plan and having worked with his officers up until the coronavirus, I appreciate their efforts and I understand that the current pandemic has blown a big hole in their plans. It is a great shame because there was some good work going on and we were making very good progress towards producing a proper Island Plan in the normal timescale. I understand Members’ comments about the lodging and approval process but I think one thing the pandemic has taught us is how to be nimble on our feet and how to put both Scrutiny and Government to work together quickly to bring things that are a necessity for the Island to the Assembly for approval in short order. I greatly appreciate the efforts of Scrutiny in that respect who have worked extremely hard under very trying circumstances to bring our coronavirus legislation. Maybe the Island Plan legislation will probably fall into this particular bucket because I think, again, to reiterate the Minister for Children and Housing’s comments, there is a big demand for housing out there. There are an awful lot of people who are in rented accommodation who desperately need a permanent home and have the ability to afford one. My concern is around the third element of this question which is to decouple from the Migration Policy but having spent many years in the finance industry putting together strategies for a financial services organisation, the one thing you do need when you are doing this is a clear course to steer to. We know some things about what should be in the Island Plan because we know what the current demand is or at least I think we do. What we do not know or what the Minister for the Environment does not know is what our Migration Policy is going to be and that, for me, is a very important factor. Three years is a long time and we simply cannot go 3 years and have no Migration Policy or no idea of what it is going to be because preparations need to be started now if we are going to have people coming into the Island. I have a serious concern about not having a Migration Policy. We need to know what it is and we need to develop other things from that because letting people into the Island or not letting people into the Island has consequences. For example, if we are going to rely on people to migrate into the Island, we need to develop a strategy about the use of green zone and brown zone land and St. Helier. That has to be part of the planning strategy because we need to know what our capacity to build further houses is to absorb people that come into the Island. It simply is not right to allow people to come to Jersey with families and then deny them the right of a house and that is part of the consequences of agreeing a migration strategy. It is not without consequence. If you agree you are going to allow people to come to Jersey, then you also have to agree to the social responsibility that goes with that and that, for professional families in many instances, is having a house which they can buy. If you do not want to do that, then you have to rethink your migration strategy.
In short, what I am saying is that we need to do that work, we need to think about what our Migration Policy is going to be and what the consequences of that migration policy is going to be on the Island Plan. I do not think you can decouple the 2. You cannot do one in isolation of the other because you could go off in one direction on even a short Island Plan and it would be totally contrary to what is agreed on the Migration Policy. What I am saying is even if we have a shortened version of the Migration Policy, in the same way as we are considering a shortened version of the Island Plan, that work, in my view, still needs to be done. If it is not done, I think we will regret it when we come to the fuller version later on. Those are my comments on the section there but it is, for me, of great concern and one of the most important pieces of legislation in place, even it is a shortened version of legislation. The Island Plan is the bedrock of how we house people in this Island and how the Island is developed, how we maintain our green spaces, what our road infrastructure is. It always has impact on a transport strategy and also our carbon neutral strategy. I really think we have to do that bit of work and it has to be done in tandem with this shortened Island Plan.
The Deputy Greffier of the States (in the Chair):
Does any other Member wish to speak on section 1 of this debate? If no Members wish to speak on this section then I invite the Minister for the Environment to move on to the next section.
I wonder if I can, before I do that, just pick up a couple of points. Having said that, we will be circulating a note to Members anyway after this so please do not think if I do not cover that, which I am not going to go into every point and detail now, that it will be lost. We will capture all the points. But I think on this question of Migration Policy, it is obviously a critical point in Members and maybe I perhaps have not explained what we had in mind. I do not think we are saying that there will not be a Population Policy. I think the problem is that the evidence base may not be entirely there to back it up because obviously, while I am looking ahead, whatever policies we choose will need to go to a planning inquiry and from past planning inquiries the whole issue, as Members have said, of housing requirements, of infrastructure requirements and all those things does follow through. So I think please, I am not saying we will not have any reference to Migration Policy. Yes, a Migration Policy is necessary but I think the difficulty is that the plan is going to have to make an assumption before we get the Census result. We will be able to validate it when we get the Census result in 2021 and also we will be able to ... so the evidence base will not be in the way that I normally would do. One thing that my Assistant Minister, Deputy Guida, has pointed out to me on the points that were made by Deputy Labey, that obviously the planned period about developers ... the problem we have is that I recognise absolutely that developers need certainty of the policies. But of course if they proceed with applications and they are approved under the plan or however period then that carries on. Certainly I think that issue is manageable. But equally, what is not possible, is to set the long-term vision for the 10 years, I do not believe at the moment. Just picking up my notes and I am going to move on to section 2.
The Deputy Greffier of the States (in the Chair):
Minister, before you do, the Deputy of St. Martin has indicated in the chat that he would like to speak.
The Deputy of St. Martin:
Somebody asked a question just now and it might be worth trying to just address it quickly. What is the department’s view on the reason why we cannot extend the current plan for 3 years, addressing if we did that some of the really fundamental issues? But is there a basic reason why the current plan would not run over for another 3 years if we really had to do it?
Deputy J.H. Young:
I am going to have to take advice so whatever I say now is based on my understanding. My understanding that if we did not produce a plan in the short-term period that we are proposing to do, I am advised that the existing plan would continue to be. But of course the problem we have is that the plan is very out of date and needs review. That is the point that Deputy Labey made. I do not think we have much of a choice here. What we try to do is to set out what things we think can be dealt adequately within the plan and probably we do not have time to go into a lot of detail here, but in the presentation that was circulated to Members, you will see it charts out all of the work areas where we think we can do a decent plan. But in my discussion with my ministerial colleagues, and I have discussed this with my ministerial colleagues, the hypothetical position was put: should the Island Plan wait until after the next elections? Obviously that is a theoretical possibility and the overwhelming view from all my colleagues was absolutely not. We have got too many issues that we have to deal with and we should deal with them now. We are going to go on to them in the second part. I think things like housing, hospital and so on. I do not know if you need me to say more.
The Deputy of St. Martin:
No, that is fine. I just thought it needed to be said because otherwise some people will come back and say: “Why can we not just run over for another 3 years?”
Deputy J.H. Young:
If I may pick up and see if there are any other final comments I want to deal with before we move on to section 2. Deputy Guida has raised with me the question of consultation. The point raised by Deputy Morel, the perception of the plan being driven by Government of Jersey. He is absolutely right that if that were to happen my past experience tells me the plan would fail. It would probably, I think … whether it would get through the Assembly, would be in doubt because those people that felt that, I think, would make their voices known and it would not get through a planning inquiry. Again I have probably not explained enough but it is in the documents that the time period for public consultation is unaffected by the way we do this and so the consultation period is still 3 months. That is a pretty long time and we are going to work ... I think we have already had a session with the Scrutiny Panel and there is a good dialogue happening there, and I welcome that much. I will do my very best, and I give an undertaking to work with the Scrutiny Panel, to ensure we can do our best to avoid any snags that will occur because of the way to handle the process. But I am afraid the process is the only way we can achieve a plan and get it to the point through a public inquiry and be debated by the States before the next election. That was the choice that we faced. I have been given a note here on the housing because obviously Members have been moving on to the housing but I think I want to just pick up the Population Policy aspect. The Population Policy will have a greater impact, I think, on the longer-term needs. What the planning process allows us now the opportunity to do is to renew our supply and address the need as it exists for affordable homes, which for me is an absolute priority. Key to that is the way in which we use public assets. I have made my views clear that that is something we are looking to have in the plan, and I am very dependent upon the work done by various other ministerial groups that are working on that. Also I want to work strongly with the Connétables because I know that a number of Parish communities are very advanced in this and I think that is the challenge, which the officers are going to help me to set in train processes that we can achieve those things. I think I am getting nods, so if I may move on. I will pause there for a minute and see whether I can move on to section 2.
The Deputy Greffier of the States (in the Chair):
If no more Members wish to speak on section 1, if they could indicate in the chat channel otherwise, yes, Minister, you have the floor. Deputy Truscott, has a quick question.
Deputy G.J. Truscott:
What net migration assumption are you working on? Is it 750 or 1,000 a year going forward?
Deputy J.H. Young:
I think that is a question I am going to have difficulty in answering now. I am not quite sure. But the process that I want to see is that there is closer engagement before we choose that number. I am not sitting here with a number in my mind. The only fixed position that I have got as the Minister is I believe that the rate of migration into the Island we have seen for the last probably 10 years-plus, I do not think is sustainable in the future. That is my personal view. It is a pre-election view and I think possibly when we go on and discuss section 2 we will see some feedback in the public consultation that I think reflects that view. I am just going to check, with my colleagues, if I may. Sorry, about the pause. I think this is a difficult question. Can we come back to that, Deputy?
Deputy G.J. Truscott:
If you could, that is fine.
Moving on, if I may, to Section 2. Obviously the consultation paper and feedback document that we published has got a lot of information. We had 45 engagement events in producing that and we had a very large number of public responses. I think the key questions in that are ... I have asked for the link to be in the chat for the report we published, for those Members that have not been able to locate it. But on page 14 of our in-committee debate paper we go through a number of things leading up to the questions. The big one is what is called the spatial strategy. Really that is about, if you like, the strategic policy at the top level of where we do our development. On the chart on page 14, you have got the way the public felt about that on the options: concentrate development in St. Helier, northern expansion of town, southern expansion of town, increased density in out-of-town areas, outward expansion and so on, and a new settlement. Then finally, development in the countryside. Unfortunately, if you have not got it in colour, the colour of course will show the red, amber and green. Of course you will be clearly able to see there was an overwhelming majority from the very substantial public consultation that we should not go for development in our countryside. We should continue the policy, which Jersey has adopted ever since probably the first Island Plan; certainly since 1987 as far as I know. A series of Island Plans, the 1987 plan, the 2002 plan, the 2011 plan that maintain that our countryside is best it can be. Obviously some development happens but it is very tightly managed. I think of course from my point of view, if I may take a lead here, the evidence of that is when you fly into Jersey on an aircraft and you see the pattern of development, it is very clear that has been a successful policy. But nonetheless, I am only one Minister and I want to hear Members’ views about what their thoughts are about that question. Where should we choose to locate new development in the short term? So which option or combination of options is the most appropriate to promote the sustainable developments of the urban core and Jersey’s Parish settlements - that is important - and other settlements over the 3 years? That is a key issue for debate. Then we come to affordable homes, which for me is a major, major issue. We have come to the situation, and personally I feel pretty upset about this, where the young people have very low expectations of being able to acquire their own homes in a way that my generation, and probably the generation after me, have been able to do. I think what that does for their aspirations and motivations and future is a very, very significant issue.
Obviously that is the issue of supply and demand, it is part of the story. There are lots of other ingredients to that which are about the capacity of the building industry. There are issues about to what extent does Government intervene and what does Government just rely on the private sector to deliver for us? What is the role of our States-owned companies to deliver housing for us? What can we do to improve that and so on? I think that is an issue there that I want to hear Members’ views on, please. The question there, question 5: “How best might affordable homes be delivered over the short term?” Following on from that, this is really important, in creating housing development what goes with it? I am very clear in my mind that it would be irresponsible to develop a lot more dwellings in our built areas without providing open space, play facilities, access for children, and so on. The sort of facilities we need to make the health and well-being of our communities the best we can. There is going to be a great deal of difficulties in that but I wanted to see Members’ views, do they share that view about how important it is do that and do they have any ideas and thoughts of how we might achieve that. Then I suppose we come to the economy. Obviously we have got a number of different sectors and some are less affected by the pandemic and others clearly are hugely affected. The uncertainty is probably more in the retail and tourism areas and hospitality but obviously we have got finance and our business services. What are their requirements and how we are providing for them? But of course there is an association because business premises and so on adds life to areas, which kind of plugs into our local services and retail and so on, and the provision of service industry and supply lines and so on. All that is related. So what objectives should the Island Plan have? This is where I have a bit of a problem because I am struggling to find where we have got a very clear - this is not a criticism, this is an observation because at the moment it is very difficult to see this - as to what are going to be the key requirements that need to be factored into the plan. Or, in particular for the plan, what land use changes? What land use policies are needed to help assist that economic recovery? Moving on, we have got the road space, giving pedestrians, cyclists and buses more priority. I think we have all spoken about it many times, I do not need to say much about that. Then we have got the big issue about our natural world in Jersey. The wealth of valuable resources in our natural and historic environments and the Island’s marine. Many people feel that a lot of that is at risk and is threatened. Our biodiversity is declining. People are passionate about looking after our countryside and what opportunities are there? Are there opportunities there that the plan should pick up? So I think one other thing I perhaps ought to flag up, that I do not think I have spoken on, it is not in this paper, I do not think, but Members have already spoken about infrastructure. With the housing, whatever we do on housing, goes the public infrastructure issues. I certainly think the issue myself, and I am turning to my colleagues here, about schools, the infrastructure, services, water supplies and so on. I think these are issues that have to be looked at in parallel with that. It is 10.50 a.m. now, I want to try and give Members enough time to speak for the rest of Section 2, so if I can stop there and stop speaking. If anybody wants to ask any questions on what I just said before the debate otherwise we will just go on listening mode.
The Deputy Greffier of the States (in the Chair):
If no Members have any specific questions we will start with the first Member who indicated they wanted to speak on the key planning challenges, which was Deputy Gardiner.
I am pleased to follow the Minister. There are so many questions and so many topics to address but I decided that I will concentrate my relative short speech about development in St. Helier. I do not have any problem with concentrating most of the development in St. Helier. I think it is good to have a vibrant and busy town and rural countryside. But several conditions should be met from my perspective as a town Deputy. So the main theme for my speech today is finding the balance between density and high liveability in the green and sustainable urban environment in St. Helier. I think all of us know the benefits of green spaces but I will briefly mention 4 main groups of benefits of green spaces. First, economic benefits. Urban green space can have long-term positive effect on the economy but can also generate more direct economic benefits and value through increased property values, willingness to pay for goods, urban agriculture and city branding. Second, health benefits. Urban green spaces provide a number of benefits for human health, including the physical and mental well-being, brain power, child development, all important for social and economic sustainable development, as we know. Third, ecological benefits. From urban green spaces include regulating services, noise, pollution reduction, local climate regulation and reduction of global warming. Last, quality of life benefits. Green spaces can increase the attractiveness of urban areas for residents and visitors, providing possibility for increased quality of life in terms of safety participation, social interaction and attractive living and working environment. Now, yesterday we debated the registration of accommodation and I asked for more data. It was yesterday, the debate about the data. Data we could use to manage our housing stock in a more efficient way. Now, as we are looking at the provision of grey spaces in St. Helier I asked myself the question: how can we use more than just opinion to improve our green spaces provision? I understood and realised that we need a standard and a measure. Without the standard and measure it will end up again going the way of the strongest opinion. So I researched and found there is a standard, a recognised international standard, for the provision of green spaces in compact city residential areas. It is called the Compact City Model (Commission of European Communities 1990) and in this model, which is widely used among planners, density is seen as a critical characteristic in determined, sustainable and liveable urban homes. So if you are looking through this model ... also World Health Organization criteria, is it 9 square metres green space per person within 300 metres reach. We need to calculate between our green space supply and green space pressure and to define our local threshold on green spaces so we can go beyond the opinion and work with data. I have checked also that the average green space supply in European Citizen 2012 was 14 square metres residential within 300 metres reach. We need to have a high density living because the high residential density in St. Helier means shorter journeys to work and services, more walking, cycling, less use of public transport, better access to facilities, lower fuel emission, land ground space per capita and reduced energy cost due to the apartments and multifamily houses in blocks which require less heating. With all these benefits green space has been undervalued in St. Helier. I would like to see these calculations applied in St. Helier. Maybe we can find areas in St. Helier that are more appropriate than others to build upon, make access to them easier and the future work more than an opinion and feeling what we are creating in proper St. Helier plans. It should be created with. It is not one way forward. It is not necessary there should be big public parks. It might be a way to improve access to green spaces to meet the standard. I will give you an example. I live, as Members know, not far from Vallée Des Vaux. Vallée Des Vaux is geographically very close to Queens Road, which as we know is a densely populated area but there is no real access. It is only one real access from the Queens Road to Vallée Des Vaux. By simply providing access from Queens Road, through La Pouquelaye, different parts of La Pouquelaye, a large area of St. Helier can have a direct access within 300 metres to the green space in Vallée Des Vaux that now is pretty blocked. What I would like to ask, that this calculation of green open space per capita, within 300 metres, to be used as part of the Island Plan from now on. I would like to see all new planning permissions to build in St. Helier will need to meet this criteria; is about using existing green space or creating additional ones. For example, the solution could be having rooftop gardens on the top of a new development. St. Helier must be a desirable place to live, work and play.
I will try to address the issues as best I can here. I will run through the questions as quickly as I can because I have got quite a little bit to say here. So the first one is question 4: “Where do we choose to locate new development in the short term?” It seems to me that the outcome of the consultation done by the department pretty much concurred with exactly what would have been my thoughts. I think we have to concentrate in town but not at the exclusion of the Parishes. I think we need to be moving south when we come to building in St. Helier as well as concentrating on trying to fulfil the North of Town Masterplan. So I would agree with all those and I think the Parishes and what the Constables and Minister alluded to are key here. We all know there are Parish schemes which have been very successful. I will talk about St. Martin in a second. But in town, I certainly, when I was Minister, had a vision to try to build more houses in the north of town but along with that building was a couple of provisos. The first one is I am absolutely sure in my mind that we need to build up. We do not need to build up hugely but we need to build up and we need to create more out of the square footage of St. Helier. But with that we need to create more green, open amenity space for those people who live in town. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that the creation of these green open spaces, pedestrian areas and safeways for people to move around town is absolutely vital and goes with the territory when it comes to putting more people into St. Helier, along with other pieces of infrastructure. The Minister has already mentioned that. I am thinking particularly here of schools and we know we need another primary school in town. We have sites that we own and I think immediately of places like Le Bas Centre, Anne Street Brewery, all this sort of thing needs to be addressed and we have got to get on and do that. Getting back to the Parishes. I would like in this new Island Plan to see a new envelope placed around Parish villages and inside that envelope the ability for Parishes to create and enhance their own Parish centres. I cannot speak too highly enough of my own wonderful Parish where over the last 10 years we have managed to add shops, we have a fantastic village green, we are just finishing 20 homes and we want to do some more. We have got the older parishioners living close by. It is all very good and I can only encourage others to come and see what we have done and hopefully we could help them, if they indeed need help. But something I want to quickly touch on here, is the Minister says how might we best do these affordable homes?
I am part of the committee that has been responsible for building 20 homes in St. Martin. They are very shortly coming to a point where they are going to be lived in. I have to say to Members that we have had a committee doing this work completely for nothing. We have some fantastic people. We have built these houses at cost and I mean at cost. Literally we are going to sell them for ... we are going to retain equity, we are not making a penny of profit out of it, and we are selling these houses at cost. The cost is still going to be in excess of £300,000 and that is a frightening figure. Any of these young people that have been mentioned already in this debate thinking about how they get on to the housing ladder, it is a big, big number to start looking for. So we have got to look at other ways of being clever here, we have to look at frame-form buildings. In the new days of modern building control, frame-form is a much easier way of getting the insulation into these buildings that we need and in going for frame-form we could potentially look at off-Island fabrication because we know how expensive things are here. But I am not suggesting that we should go off-Island, we could make these frames on-Island, I do not know, but what I am saying is one way or one of the few ways that we have of driving down the cost of these homes, which are so expensive even if we sell them without profit, is to look at the way we build them and we have to do that. Question number 6 about importance factors, ensuring further housing development from these areas where we are going to have more people built up, and I am thinking of the scheme that we have in Gas Place that is going to come through towards Philip Street and Belmont Road, it is going to go in front of the Arts Centre, and there is going to be some pedestrian routes, but we have to encourage those also from the northwest of town, from the southeast and from the southwest. If you imagine a Jersey flag, if you might, and put St. Helier over the top of the Jersey flag, the red crosses are the sort of directions that we need pedestrians to feed in to the heart of town where they are going to work. I have mentioned schools and facilities for the young. I just turn the page quickly, safeguarding the economic recovery, I would like to find and I hope this new plan would make it much easier for change of use applications in the short term, businesses are going to have to be very fleet of foot and I would like to see a lot less cost and a lot less complication in getting change of use. As regards St. Helier, we maybe need to revisit what we know as the retail heart, we need to maybe put a line around the parts of St. Helier that we think are absolutely sacrosanct when it comes to the High Street - and I use that term loosely - but we need to make sure that we concentrate the shopping in certain areas so that we maintain, when you visit town, that feeling that you get of everything being occupied, everything being busy, and I would certainly do that. On part 10, facilities for fishermen going forward are going to be vital. There is a vision for some sort of fishermen’s co-operative; fishermen agree among themselves now that they need a new vision moving forward and different ways of marketing and selling their catch. The sustainability comes from another plan but certainly in the Island Plan I am sure we need to create some facilities and infrastructure for fishermen to have a central area where their catch could go. Then, finally, the use of road space and I cannot stress enough how important it is to find these green and pedestrian areas, some of which may currently be roads or lanes or streets in St. Helier. It is vital that we prioritise walking and cycling, and buses to a certain extent, but certainly walking, cycling and buses in that order, over cars in parts of town so that St. Helier can become much greener and the amenities can become much better for those who live in town. The hope is that people will want to live in town and more people will want to come from the countryside to live in St. Helier. I will just get to the last 3 things that I want to touch on, if I may, and I am sorry if I have gone on so long. The first one is infrastructure, then waste and then water. I want to make sure that in this plan, and I mentioned it right at the outset, it is important not to lose the long-term vision in a short-term plan. We need to make sure that our infrastructure is in place. Yes, we have to make sure that we have drains and water, but I am thinking particularly here about our harbours and our ports. We have plans for the airport and we have plans for the harbour, both of which cannot afford a 3 or 4-year delay before they are put into an Island Plan. Those need to be taken forward working together with ports, that is vital. We need to continue to work on our waste strategy. It seems only like the other day that the new Energy from Waste Plant was built but it is probably now halfway through its working life. When you think of the time it took to get the Energy from Waste Plant through the States and built, it is vital that we start thinking about the replacement for that plant now and whether we will replace it or whether we will have another policy, which means we do not in the future have an Energy from Waste Plant. But, in my view, we cannot wait another 4 years before we address that issue. So, waste is vital, as is the disposal of inert waste, and this is the last point that I want to talk about and I hope Members will allow me just 5 minutes. We have a once in a lifetime opportunity with Granite Products Quarry to secure a much-needed reservoir for moving forward. I talked about the lead time for the Energy from Waste Plant, but the lead time for Queen’s Valley was 20 years and we do not have 20 years in order to put forward another reservoir for this Island. The Water Resources Management Plan indicates that by 2045, if we do nothing, we are going to have a deficit of about 8 million litres a day during drought years and I cannot stress enough how important it is that we come up with a resilient answer to this. It is so easy when it comes to Island Plans, and especially when you do a short version of the Island Plan like we are doing here, that we push the big issues down the road and we say that is a major issue, we cannot address that now, we will leave that for the big plan in 4 years’ time. It would be absolutely wrong not to address water in this current short-term plan and make some fundamental decisions for Gigoulande Quarry, because they do have a planning permit but we can do other things with inert waste. The options moving forward for places to store water for this Island in the next 20 or 30 years are very, very limited. The effects of climate change and population growth are going to place on our water resource … put them under increased stress, even with the desalination plant going flat out. We have to have more storage. If the desalination plant were to break at times of drought, we do not have the storage capacity to take up the capacity. So the increasing deficit in the water available, there are millions and millions of litres of water going out to sea every year and we really have to take that note. Gigoulande Quarry is by far the best idea and it has to be addressed. It is a big hole in the ground that nobody can see, which would have very few environmental issues if we filled it with water. It sits at the top of a valley that is already used by Jersey Water and it would be an awful thing if we allowed it to carry on without looking very seriously, looking at it as a spot for the storage of water. It is a unique opportunity and we cannot miss it. I will just finish with this, I know Members may well be aware that in Egypt and in North Africa at the moment, Egypt and Ethiopia are potentially on the verge of going to war over water. The Ethiopians are damming the Blue Nile and the Egyptians are desperately worried about the effect that is going to have on 90 per cent of their population. Water resources in the future are going to be absolutely vital as we move into these times of climate change. I cannot stress this enough. The Minister mentions sustainability right at the outset and I completely concur with him but I have to say to him that I will be pushing very, very hard. I know Arup are looking at this but if Arup cannot come back with some details before this short Island Plan is debated, I will be moving to protect or to make sure that the Island moving forward has enough water. Water storage is vital and that is something that is missing in the Minister’s short questionnaire here and I finish there.
I have been looking at the outskirts and we are talking about building in St. Helier and the maps and the plans incorporate quite a little bit of St. Saviour and this is concerning me just a little bit, not that I do not want the developments, but this is going to be for St. Helier and we are concentrating on St. Helier, and yet you are taking some routes from St. Saviour. I see D’Hautree is mentioned on here, so is Bagot and so is Plat Douet, and these are St. Saviour’s areas and the Parish of St. Saviour - it possibly will not be in my lifetime as I am not standing again - has to have a say, especially in D’Hautree because I have heard rumours of what it could be earmarked for and that is not what the Parish have been earmarking it for. I would just like to ask the Minister if you could possibly, when you are doing these boundaries for St. Helier and you are taking some of St. Saviour, just consult St. Saviour because it is going to be very, very important that the parishioners of St. Saviour do have a say as the Roads Committee.
I am pleased to follow my Constable and when we think about the Island Plan we often think about the built environment and I kind of get images of new homes being built. I do want to talk a bit more about something that Deputy Gardiner started to talk about and I want to focus on trees, which of course are often part of green spaces. Before I begin, I want to thank Gerard Farnham from Jersey Trees for Life who has been an absolute goldmine of information and help, so thank you to him. So it seems to me that trees are not protected enough in Jersey and we do have something called Tree Protection Orders and I just wanted to ask the Minister about these and whether he thought they were being used effectively enough and whether there was any consideration of how these are used when he is looking at the Island Plan, because we probably need to enforce them more effectively. So if the Minister could comment on that. But more generally I just want to state my view that we need more trees in our urban and suburban areas and I agree with the Deputy of St. Martin in his assertion that we should be focusing development on St. Helier and indeed it seems that the majority of Islanders hold that view. He said that we should be building up. Jersey, to me, has a small city in St. Helier, it is a very cosmopolitan area, and the vast majority of the world’s population live in cities, so clearly people like to be in cities. But when we are building in St. Helier, I want to ask the Minister if there is a way to ensure or promote balconies being built on any flats that are being built because having access to an outdoor space is absolutely critical for human well-being, and not just balconies, but having that green space around. Deputy Gardiner gave us that formula, which I absolutely concur with that; that is something that should be written into our Island Plan, and not just as an afterthought; that should be the foundation of our Island Plan. The Constable of St. Saviour mentioned development creeping into the Parish and I have noticed this and we have had several large housing developments, which most are 3-bedroom houses, lovely developments with young families in, and my district in particular is St. Saviour No. 2 and it is very much a suburban area. We all know the way of things is that suburban areas often become more urban over time and, while we do need to build new homes for people that need them, we need to ensure that we preserve the quality of life for people who are already living in those suburban areas.
A key way to do that is ensuring access to green space and specifically ensuring that trees are preserved and planted. There should be a presumption that when any building work happens or any street work, anywhere where we are breaking ground, the thinking should be: “Where can we get a tree in the ground here and how many can we get in?” because trees are really, really important. There is so much research, really interesting research that I have been reading, and there is a saying, which has popped up on a few things I have read that, if trees provided free wi-fi we would be planting them like crazy. Trees provide the oxygen that is essential for human life and given the current crisis or the crisis that we are hopefully coming out of, there is an understanding, and a previous speaker did touch on this earlier, the air quality in our environment is already of course of extreme importance, but it is going to be even more important as we try to live with this virus. I heard on the radio this morning that a scientific advisor in the U.K. (United Kingdom) is warning of the virus coming back in waves over years. So we need to make sure that we are giving our citizens the best chances at being healthy and trees are a simple and effective way to do this and to improve the air quality. The research I have looked at said that in densely populated areas oxygen levels are often 6 per cent lower and one mature leafy tree can provide enough oxygen to allow 10 humans to breathe. So it is not just about planting new trees, it is about preserving the ones that are already there, and I will come on to that in a minute. But the benefits of having trees, trees soak up pollutants and we know we have a problem with this. Deputy Ward has raised questions about this in the past, as have I, and one of my own constituents did an experiment a couple of years ago where he placed air quality monitors in key places around the Island and the results were not great. I would like to see more of that work being done by the Minister and I wonder if he could remind us of the work on air quality and how that might interact with the Island Plan. Are there plans to measure air quality in key areas and how will that impact on potential development? We have also recognised that we have a climate emergency and made a commitment to be carbon neutral by 2030 and Deputy Ward has extolled the virtues of trees in previous debates because trees are carbon sinks and they soak up that carbon. But to me one of the most important reasons for having trees is to do with well-being because being around nature, and specifically being around trees, has been shown to reduce the level of cortisol in our brains. This is really important in Jersey because we all know that we have this culture of working very hard, we do have a slow pace of life in some senses but Jersey very much has this culture of busy, busy, busy. It is often the first question that you are asked by an acquaintance, when you say to somebody: “How are you?” the response is often: “I am busy, busy, busy.” We need to recognise that culture that we have in Jersey and to try to counter it as much as we can. The fact that just having trees around can reduce levels of stress and the level of cortisol in your brains, it is a no-brainer to me. People are also more likely to leave their homes and go outside and exercise if they have a welcoming tree-lined green space nearby to go and do so. We like trees. Humans have evolved to co-exist with nature, we have not evolved to co-exist with concrete, but we seem to be doing so more and more. In terms of well-being and the way that research in this area has evolved over the years, it is very well established that humans need things like a certain amount of water every day for well-being and we need to eat our 5 a day of fruit and veg, although I think it is 10 a day now, and the recent research around sleep being so important to our well-being. Nature is emerging now as the sixth pillar of well-being and there is talk of making recommendations around how much time people should spend in nature. A very interesting study that I found, which was just over a year ago, was a big study of over 20,000 people in England, which looked at their contact with nature and it found that the likelihood of reporting good health or high well-being became significantly greater when individuals had more than 2 hours contact with nature. That is any kind of contact, so just being in nature and looking at trees or walking in nature, so it does not have to be being active in nature. So this is accessible for all. So when we are planning where we are going to build homes and how we are going to build them, if we accept that access to nature, the research is telling us that it is as essential as things like healthy eating and drinking water, thenI might put it this way that when we are planning homes we would not build a home without access to running clean water, would we, so we should definitely not be building homes without access to trees and nature and green spaces. I have talked about planting trees and of course politically this is completely uncontroversial because everybody wins really when you plant a tree. But the perhaps more controversial idea is something called pro-forestation, which is preserving trees that we already have there. Again, I have looked at research on this and the research is that preserving the trees that we have is even more important, much more important, than planting new ones. The Minister will remember I asked a question when States Members were being briefed on hospital locations and we had a picture of the Overdale area and I asked whether the area being under consideration there on that Overdale site included the woodlands. The answer was: “No, we are not planning to build on that.” But then the officer went on to say: “But, if we do, we will replace the trees.” At that point alarm bells started ringing in my mind because you cannot simply replace a mature woodland with saplings, it will take 50 to 60 years for any saplings planted to get to the level of growth that could be seen as replacing mature trees such as those at Overdale. So I want to ask the Minister what he is going to do to protect existing woodland and areas of trees because I know that I mentioned Tree Protection Orders; that even trees that do have Tree Protection Orders are not necessarily always enforced. I am disappointed that happens and I want to ask the Minister about that. For example, there is an area that I am aware of and a family member lives nearby, it is called Mont Martin Farm, and there is a new development going on there, and there was an orchard there over 100 years old and it was all cut down. That development could have taken place there around the trees and I want to know why that is happening under our current Island Plan and how do we avoid that happening under the new one? I also want to raise the issue of children and I know the Minister for Children and Housing will probably be talking a bit more about this and we were very grateful to be able to meet with the Minister, it was several months ago now, in Parish groups and we met with the Minister in his offices, so I want to thank him for that opportunity. At that time I asked the Minister how he was going to get the voice of children into this Island Plan, because of course we all understand that we will be taking the (United Nations) Convention on the Rights of the Child on board in Jersey, so I want to know how that is progressing and what priority the Minister is giving to that because, like the issue of nature, trees and green spaces, I do not want the voice of children to be an afterthought, I want it to be part of the foundation and the essence of this Island Plan. So I want some reassurance from the Minister on that, please. I guarantee you, if we do listen to the voice of children, they are going to talk to us about trees and green spaces, because children have an affinity with trees and nature. But this is something that any childcare practitioners who might be listening will know all about. Forest School is something that has taken over considerably in Jersey, albeit with some difficulty in an already crowded curriculum. But if we look at some of the research on this, as far back as 2005 Richard Louv introduced the term “nature deficit disorder”. That is quite a striking term and quite a sad one to be talking and thinking about things like that. Nature deficit disorder, and this is supported by an expanding body of scientific evidence, contributes to a diminished use of the senses, attention difficulties in children, obesity, higher rates of emotional and physical illnesses. So what we do with our built environment can have an impact on children’s lives across the whole holistic span of their lives. So those are the 2 points I wanted to make really about trees, I wanted to echo what Deputy Gardiner said about green spaces and the voice of children specifically about nature, but more generally as well I want to know how the Minister is going to, not just ensure that the Island Plan is compliant with the U.N.C.R.C. (United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child), but that it is the best plan that we can have for children and what children need and what they want to have in that plan. Thank you to the Minister as well for the information, for the structure he has given to this debate, I can see he and his officers have done a lot of work, so I thank him.
The Deputy Bailiff:
Senator Mézec. Senator, I will come back to you. Deputy Ward.
I will jump in there if I may. First of all I would like to say I really quite like this format, it gives us an opportunity to think and discuss and go through ideas and I thank the Minister for the documents that he sent out, I know other people have, but it gives us a structure and it gives us some ideas to start with on this thing that is called the Island Plan, which we all want to look at. So it is a good start. In terms of the criteria, let us try to go through some of those details. The first issue of spatial strategy, as a St. Helier Deputy obviously we face huge amounts of building, in north St. Helier there are 400-and-something flats being built even now, and the future developments concern me enormously. I would ask regards consultations, that they are looked at very carefully in terms of where the consultation was replied from and how you are engaging those communities that will face these significant impacts on their environment. That needs to be looked at really carefully. That is not to undermine, it is just to add to. The question of whether we should build in St. Helier is not a simple answer, one of the things that needs to be addressed is what type of building and is it appropriate. I would ask for this Island Plan, in its short form, and I understand the need for a short plan, but anything that happens from it we need to think about some key issues and there needs to be a standard that accompanies this. One of those issues is the future of anything that is developed in the centre of St. Helier and we need to ask the question in the back of our mind and it needs to be right there is: what will this look like in 10 years, in 20 years and 30 years, what legacy are we leaving behind for future generations? Because when we build we end up having those homes, initially perhaps with young families but those young families grow and children grow up and they get older and what they want, their demands and their needs change in terms of their living environment. It is not easy but it has to be planned for, otherwise we are building up future problems. As a St. Helier Deputy, already there are lots of problems that arise from young people gathering in certain areas because there is nowhere else for them to go in that area.
Obviously, it will not be a surprise to Members to hear from me that there are already deficits in the north of St. Helier that must be addressed and I was pleased that the Assembly accepted the idea of the urgent need for youth facilities in the north of St. Helier, and my concern is that they may be delayed and that is exactly the type of issue that we are faced with if our building and our plans are not consistent and acted upon. Let us go back to that community just briefly, the communities that we live in and that we plan for need to be thought about really carefully and what we need to build is designed projects that bring communities together. I am not just talking about different cultures or people from different nationalities or whether they were born in Jersey or born somewhere else, I am talking about the demographics within communities such as age, which is a really important one. Because so often I hear in the Assembly … and to this point I still do not know how to address it, I will at some point come up with something really clever to address it but there is always a division between younger people and older people. But all of the research, all of our communities, all of our backgrounds … we have had grandparents that have been so important to us and within those communities we need to build communities whereby young and old division does not exist, so that there is a care, so that people grow up feeling safe, not simply because of policing or enforcement, because that is what happens within our communities. Rebuilding that sort of community is vital and that comes from the space that we design and we make. It is integral to it. I completely agree with the emphasis on green spaces and trees and the importance of that, of course I do, but let us talk about that, the air that we breathe. I would like to make a plea on my hands and knees to the Minister for the Environment and to the Minister for Infrastructure, please let us get some actual monitoring of air quality in place as soon as is humanly possible so that we know what we are dealing with and we know what to plan for. The idea of data, we have none. We are hoping that at that time these delays are not creating risks to our children and their health, particularly in the schools, in the primary schools in the area. If we are going to build and we are going to make that problem worse then I am afraid we have failed our future generations. There has been an agreement to one development in the centre of St. Helier for an extra 200 carparking spaces and when we look at those spaces there are some really difficult decisions that are going to have to be made. There is a question, which we have not addressed, and we need to do so openly and intelligently, which is that, if you do live in the centre of St. Helier, do you have the same access to spaces such as those as somebody who lives in the rural areas or do we need something different? Car share schemes, electric car share schemes, bike schemes, better walking pathways, better access pathways, and that is what comes from an intelligent Island Plan with real drive and real principles behind it. Those principles are key, we talk about environmental principles, but we just simply do not act on them enough because they can be challenging. There is an opportunity here, the economic recovery that we keep talking about, there is a huge opportunity on our Island to not only develop this long-term future that will work and negate problems before they even arise through that economic investment but also to act on those areas of what I would call emergency repair for the deficits that we have, particularly in St. Helier, youth facilities, green spaces, homes that we are building that work for the people who live in them. I will come back to that because that is a very specific thing. Then we come on to social housing. I have huge concerns over what is happening and I take on board the Minister’s comments and it is quite good that I managed to jump in ahead of him because perhaps he can address my concerns. The idea that Andium are building more facilities as well and that is great. But I have a real concern that, as an arm’s-length company that Andium is moving towards becoming a property developer as much as a social housing provider. If you look at the development on Gas Place and Millennium Park, 50 per cent of those will go on to the open market at open market prices, only 25 per cent will be sold on the scheme for first-home buyers, and only a quarter, it may even be less, will go to affordable rental. These sorts of mixed developments, as they are called, change the nature of what Andium is doing and change the nature of our social housing and I am very concerned. I was not in the Assembly when that was voted upon, and this is not a criticism - well it is a criticism but in its truest sense - I wonder if Assembly Members understood the implications of what they were doing. That is the problem for our Island Plan, we need to have a full understanding of the implications of the decisions that we take long term in terms of the build, in terms of affordable housing, sustainability, and the long-term effects on our environment. That is a really difficult thing to do and takes some incredibly considered and thoughtful approaches. I would also say I would like to see some brave decisions made regards the States of Jersey Development Corporation. I would like to see the banning of lockup-and-leave builds, particularly on States-owned land, because they do nothing to deal with our housing crisis. In fact I would go as far as to say that what they do is they provide a drain and just drive housing prices up and we do not need it, it is quite dangerous for us. So the nature of these arm’s-length companies needs to be looked at again. I think it is linked to the Island Plan because of the role that they take. I will cut it short because I know we can come back, but we need to talk about transport. Transport has to change; we are in a position where we do not have a sustainable form of transport across the Island. Every time we talk about it, people get into their camps and their ideas and they fight their corner and what we need in this Island Plan is some way to take away the conflicts that often are not even real and come up with something that works. We made a step forward the other day and there is a future there in the Parishes to do some things, but in the centre of St. Helier in particular some really brave decisions need to be made about stopping cars in certain areas and allowing pedestrians and cyclists to move around safely. I would of course talk about climate change and we need to address one big issue and that is the attitude that we are going to have towards our role in climate change. Do we believe that our impact is so small that it really does not matter and therefore we do not take part or do we take a much wider view - and I went to the Small Islands Conference with Deputy Gardiner and it certainly opened my eyes - that we are part of a network of small islands across the world that together and collectively have a huge impact, the analogy being we are like one city among many others and if those individuals do not make a change then the holistic change will not happen. So we have an absolutely crucial role to play, even though we are small, and that must feed into the Island Plan. Finally, I would say that when we build social housing I have a huge concern that we are not building to the right standards, we are not building to the right standards of insulation, of renewable energy sources, so that those homes over the long term are not only sustainable in terms of their environmental impact, but they are cheaper to run, they are more effective to run and more affordable in this genuine long-term sense. So that those people are living, those families not only are living in the best possible homes that we can build but they are inexpensive to run and it is not a drain on their incomes. In that way we can drive down the cost of living on this Island in a different way. We need to think so carefully about doing that. Any investment now in doing that will pay dividends because these homes will be here for 20, 30, 40, 50 years and unless we take that principle in this Island Plan, and future Island Plans, we will miss an opportunity. There is so much more that could be said but I am sure people are fed up with listening to me so I will leave it at that and I hope that is in addition to the debate that could be listened to.
I am sorry about before, I was clicking the microphone button and nothing was happening, but I am glad it appears to be working now. I am pleased in one sense to follow Deputy Ward because he helped provide some balance to what risks becoming a debate on the St. Helier plan rather than just the Island Plan. But also I am slightly annoyed at having to follow him because he said a lot of the things that I would have wanted to say. I wanted to start on a bit of a lighter note, which might sound irrelevant at the start but Members will see where I am going with this. Some Members will know that I am a big fan of the T.V. (television) series the Simpsons, not just because it is very funny but because it provides some very incisive commentary on society and often has a very clever way of poking fun at the double standards that many people have but are completely oblivious to. There is a wonderful episode where the children of the community are invited into the T.V. studio to discuss their favourite cartoon, the Itchy and Scratchy Show, which has become a bit stale and they want to revitalise it and come up with some new ideas to improve it. They form a focus group with this group of children and they ask them: “Would the show be better if the characters faced more relatable scenarios, things that you would encounter in your life?” and they all say: “Yes, that would be brilliant.” “So, OK, what about if they encountered some really crazy situations and far out stuff, would that not be great?” and they all say: “Yes, that would be great.” The guy concludes by saying: “So what you want is a realistic down-to-earth show that is completely off the wall and swarming with magic robots?” and they all say: “Yes, that would be brilliant.” The reason I raise that is because I look at the consultation responses to the Island Plan and I cannot help but think that, if we went by all of this, everybody seems to want everything without providing any of the necessary trade-offs, they want the realistic down-to-earth show and the magic robots and do not realise that you cannot have both. The first part that is listed in the document that we have been given is this 71 per cent who want to focus on development in town. I will tell you what, I would love to see a breakdown of that 71 per cent to see what parts of the Island those people live in, I suspect that it will focus mostly on those people who live outside of town and that could probably be reciprocated no matter what part of the Island you chose. 78 per cent were resistant to building in the countryside. Here is one I really struggled to get to grips with, over half thought it was important for developments to enhance the St. Helier landscape. Why is that not 100 per cent? Surely everything that we do should be about enhancing our landscape and developments; why would you want to promote things that do the opposite of that? That is such a strange answer that it is just over half rather than nearly unanimous. Of course the particularly interesting one is 72 per cent locations which minimise the need to travel. So I would wonder of those who want the development to be focused in town, how many of them live in town and have to live with the consequences of greater density and more development going on here. Most importantly, who is willing to put the money and the effort in to delivering those nicer things that will make up for the density increase in St. Helier and provide decent quality of life in the form of more open green space, in the form of better landscaping, more trees. As Deputy Doublet said, and I completely agree with, there are places in town that many of us walk through several times a day that really ought to be improved. I remember recently when a vision for the waterfront was published and that included providing more trees in that area and again people complained about it. It seems some people want to have their cake and eat it and do not realise that there are necessarily going to be trade-offs that this Assembly and this Government will have to be strong on and stand against what will be some of the reactionary opposition to it.
I remember when it came to crunch time for delivering the Millennium Town Park, which all these years later surely nobody can suggest was the wrong decision, providing such a decent green lung in this densely populated part of town. When the weather is good it is absolutely packed with families and children and people out there enjoying it, whether they are using the play equipment or whether they are just sat reading a book or meeting people to have a coffee, it has completely revitalised that area, yet it was only ever won because of one politician misplacing his ring binder and pressing the wrong voting button. Such was the commitment to improving life for people in St. Helier that we had to rely on an inanimate object to deliver that for us, rather than the will of the then representatives, or the majority of the representatives at that time. That does not bode well for the future. If you are going to plan to simply pack new rabbit hutches into St. Helier, as I warn you, expect a fight about it. We have this absurd situation, and I am going to upset some of my colleagues here by pointing this out, where we are entertaining the idea of building a hospital in 2 of the parks in St. Helier in a part of the Island that already lacks enough open green space, we are even entertaining the idea of getting rid of some of that green and open space, rather than sticking to what should be a sensible point of principle and saying: “No, we will rule this out because it is unacceptable for reasons to do with the quality of life in the part of the Island that we are now going to insist takes up an even greater density of population.” I guess it is kind of annoying because, even though I am a town resident myself and I live in an area where, within 100 metres from where I am sat right now, there are currently moves underway to deliver 463 new apartments, I can see one of them directly from where I am now out of one of my windows, the Gas Works site will have new homes delivered on it, the Le Masurier site, new homes delivered on it, none of which I am ultimately against because we do need to revitalise parts of town, we do need more homes, and I do not have any problem with that. What I have a problem with is the lack of consideration that goes for all the other issues. I have been to places in other jurisdictions, small territories that have dense populations in parts of it that have managed to achieve some great things. Two examples I think are of Funchal in Madeira, which I visited last year, and Gibraltar, which I visited a few years before that. They have dense populations but have made the effort, and I would say that they have made this effort based on the fact that they have had progressive Governments there that have focused on making sure that the homes they build are affordable, that they are decent quality and that the amenity spaces and facilities that go around with them get a good focus. The recent election in Gibraltar, their sitting Government won a landslide re-election and one of the big policies it had was to completely get rid of 3 of their car parks to build new green open space there and they are going ahead with that. That shows what you can do when you do more than just pay lip-service to these principles, but put your money where your mouth is and go ahead and deliver it. So I am not against the principle of building more homes in St. Helier and we are in an advantageous position in that we have delivery agents that we can exert influence over and basically tell them what to do in order to achieve some of the things we want. I spoke previously about Andium actively delivering community facilities as part of their developments. We have these opportunities and we need to take a strong stand and say, as part of improving quality of life for people in town and as part of meeting ambitions to provide new homes, that we are going to commit to these things. Some things that we need to do in St. Helier is we need to take these hospital sites off the list, we are preserving those open green spaces, they are important to the residents of St. Helier and all of the community and cultural things that happen there, and we should commit to providing more open green space, some of which might involve purchasing sites owned in the private sector to specifically turn them into green space. That means not building homes on that site, which might feel counterintuitive and might be frustrating when we know we need to build new homes but there will have to be a trade-off and we will have to commit to doing that. We will have to commit to providing those community facilities in the areas that are due to become more densely populated. Deputy Ward mentioned the Youth and Community Centre in the north of town and, as I mentioned, from where I am sat right now just by the Millennium Park, 463 new apartments to be built within a very confined space right now, which means more people living here, more children inevitably here as well, and we do not have a dedicated youth service. Some will be upset at this point but it is very easy to forget the importance of these issues if you are living somewhere where you have a nice house with a garden, with parking, down the road from your Parish Hall where you have an excellent pub that you can go to, where there is, as there are in lots of these Parishes, excellent youth centres and facilities. It is easy to take this stuff for granted and not understand that people in St. Helier have an equal right, I would suggest, to these facilities too, and that means saying,: “Yes, our resolve will not be weakened, we are going to deliver the north of St. Helier Youth and Community Centre and we are prepared to put some money in to make it happen and perhaps think outside the box.” One thing I would like to see, and some people will be terrified at me raising this but there is a perfect site bang in the middle of these housing developments that are going on, that is the old Odeon building, it is a complete eyesore and I am afraid that it is underutilised right now, but if we were serious we would offer to purchase it and take it into our ownership to build a youth and community centre there, meeting the need that there is inevitably going to be in the community. That is an idea, perhaps there are alternatives, but let us commit to doing something rather than just talking about it. We will need, alongside the Island Plan, a structure for an enhanced municipal government system in St. Helier to deliver on behalf of its people here. In these other places that I have mentioned, places like Funchal, for example, they have a very strong local government system that enables them to meet the needs of their people, enables them to take on a role in delivering housing as well and borrowing money where it is necessary to do that and not have to go cap in hand to the national Government to be able to do that. Yet we will face, and I have been in rooms with people as they have made this argument, people saying: “Yes, we can pack more and more homes and people in St. Helier but I have no interest whatsoever in allowing the Parish of St. Helier to take on the powers it needs, and most importantly that it wants, to be able to provide better services to the people.” We ought to support the Constable of St. Helier in his proposals for a municipal council in St. Helier so that it can play its role in delivering local services to the greater number of people it is inevitably going to have to serve. One issue that is not directly connected to the Island Plan but it is a fundamentally important issue when we are talking about the issue of population density, the fact is we also have a gerrymandered electoral system where people in St. Helier are essentially electorally oppressed by having voting power in our national Parliament that is weaker than others and the more people you put into St. Helier the worse that problem becomes. So again I say do not dare think about putting more and more people in homes in St. Helier and continue to refuse them the political voice that they need to make sure that their needs are met. So, in that sense, if this is to be an Island Plan that focuses on St. Helier then it needs to come alongside a new deal for St. Helier that focuses on providing new and open green space, providing access to those community and amenity facilities and putting the money in to make it happen. The previous Government had as one of its strategic priorities enhancing St. Helier and apart from extending the pavement on Conway Street I do not think that there was much to show for it. We cannot let our legacy be something similar. On the wider issues of policy in the Island Plan, the Minister for the Environment said some good things and I have been working with him on the Housing Policy Development Board and have heard many of his thoughts first hand that were really good, and Deputy Ward made comments on some of these as well. There are some bold policy decisions that we ought to make one way or another within the Island Plan to make sure that the homes that we get and the developments that we support are, not just left to be some sort of free for all where wealth will end up being concentrated in the hands of fewer people because they exploit these opportunities as investments without the checks and balances in there to make sure that they are meeting the needs of the community properly. Deputy Ward said about banning lockup-and-leave. Do you know what, I agree with him, let us do that, let us just say, in terms of focusing on access to homes for people who are already in Jersey, if you want to be a foreign buy-to-let investor tough luck, you will have to go somewhere else because the homes we are building here are primarily going to be for meeting people’s housing needs not for meeting the shareholders of some vulture fund somewhere else. That is a relatively easy decision to make; we just need the political will to do it. This found favour in the consultation for the Island Plan as well, let us say that, if private developers are building a selection of homes, then a proportion of those must be homes that meet the affordable homes criteria, whether that is for first-home buyers or whether it is to transfer to a social housing provider for rental. So if you are building 100 homes, a proportion of those have to be for affordable homes and, tough luck, you will just have to work that into your plans to deliver that. Again, some people will not like that because it is challenging vested interests, but if we are to deliver for people in Jersey we have to be bold and rise above those vested interests. Two further ideas, I would suggest, when it comes to building apartments in town or outside of town as well, would it not be nice to see the re-establishment of kitchens, because over the last few years in apartments built in town kitchens have been abolished, instead you just get a side of a living room with kitchen-type facilities. I tell you, the people who design apartments to have kitchen facilities like that are people who have never lived in these sorts of properties. Try watching T.V. when your washing machine is on just a couple of metres away from you, it is not pleasant, it does not help people’s health and well-being to be crammed into something so small like that. We should be saying that the space that people are entitled to in a basic home, even if it is just a small one-bedroom home, should be greater than simply having a corner in a living room dedicated as a kitchen, and we can make that policy decision and improve people’s quality of life by doing that. We have also some opportunities to assist people with downsizing from the homes they are in. There are many people out there living in homes with multiple bedrooms empty because they, earlier in their life, bought what was to become their family home, had their children brought up there and lived a very happy life while that was going on but since then the children have grown up. Many of whom are living in cramped apartments that they are paying ridiculous rates in rent on, unable to afford to buy their own family home, and yet there are lots of people out there who would quite like to downsize and to leave their family home to another family for it to become their home, but they do not have the opportunities that are viable for them to downsize and release the equity that they can have a decent standard of living on using.
The apartments that they would be looking at would be just as or sometimes even more expensive and often in locations that are not particularly good for meeting their needs. So why do we not, out there in the countryside, so not necessarily in St. Helier, look at some sites to deliver homes that we will specifically target to people who are downsizing and you can do things like offer preferential stamp duty rates or other things like that for those who may be freeing up 2 bedrooms or something like that. We have got a great opportunity with one site now that it is taken off the hospital list and that is the St. Saviour hospital site which would make an absolutely wonderful place to focus on older people being able to downsize into what can be built up to become a friendly neighbourhood with amenity space, nice fresh air and places to go out and walk the dog and enjoy yourself in that way rather than have people not want to free up their family home because they are looking at the prospect of moving to a cramped apartment in St. Helier that does not even have a kitchen. So those are the things I think we ought to be bold in and I have got confidence in the Minister for Environment that he understands these issues but it will be for the wider Assembly to stick to these principles and make sure that we do not lose sight of the bigger picture. Importantly, I was very impressed with the work I saw from the officers on producing a Children’s Rights Impact Assessment to go alongside this work and I look forward to seeing how that is developed. I hope that Members will consider that piece of work something very important to influence how we take the Island Plan forward, what amendments may come forward that we will have to think about accepting or rejecting. That is all I want to say at this point and I look forward to hearing what other Members have got to say.
It rather sticks in the craw when I hear Ministers talking about the importance of protecting open space, especially in St. Helier, because history shows us that that is all it is; talk. These men and women are well-intentioned. The current Minister for Planning is well-intentioned; he is very much in tune with my thinking I think. The previous Minister, also a good Minister, was very well-intentioned. In fact the Deputy of St. Martin when he was asking the Assembly to give him the post of Minister for Planning and Environment, the very first pledge he made on 1st November 2014 in his speech to the Assembly was he wanted to see a greener St. Helier. Yet during that first term of mine I had to fight the Government, fight the Planning Department, fight the developer on behalf of my constituents in Tunnell Street to get a better design for the development of Gas Place, less density, less mass, less volume so we could increase the Millennium Park. I had to fight to save a pocket park on Green Street; I won a debate in the States. I had to fight Ministers who then did nothing to tackle Andium about it and we lost that and that is a great shame not only for the reputation of the Assembly but for the residents of that area. During the Gorst years of course we had a Minister for Health float the notion of building a hospital on the People’s Park. Now we see 3 of the shortlisted sites for the hospital, 3 out of 5, on parks. So my question is to the Minister - who has just left his seat but I hope he is still listening - what is the Island Plan going to do to stop that rot? Because Ministers cannot do it; backbenchers cannot do it. I have tried. I have succeeded a couple of times; I have failed once in spite of a vote in the Assembly. What is the Island Plan going to do to stop that because it needs to be in legislation? One of the problems of the Island Plan is its caveated to kingdom come. You can find ways around it too many times. So that is my first point. I have floated some of these ideas with the Minister but I want to say them publicly here. We need to bring in conservation area status for areas of the Island. It is long overdue, and when I say that I am sure people will think: “Oh, yes, St. Aubin should be a conservation area, Gorey, perhaps St. Brelade’s Bay, other areas of the Island.” But the most pressing need for conservation area status is in St. Helier. We are losing too much character, we are losing too many important buildings. There are 12 conservation areas identified by the National Trust and the Société in St. Helier: the environs of People’s Park, Rouge Bouillon, Brighton Road, Windsor Crescent, Clarendon Road and the environs, The Parade, Great Union Road, Stopford Road, the historic core where you are seated now, Sir, the markets to Ann Street Brewery, Royal Crescent, Fort Regent and the historic harbours, Havre des Pas and Howard Davis Park. I very much hope that the work being undertaken by the Société (Jersiaise) and the National Trust will feed into the Island Plan. Now, Government departments are very good at being snobby about pressure groups or organisations doing some work for them and saying: “Hey, this is our idea, let us use it.” Traditionally I find Government do not like being told these things by the people and interested groups. Let us not be like that and let us really give this some thought and some action. Both those groups are tired of waiting so they have done the work themselves and we should listen to them. Jersey was very, very late listing buildings. The idea of listing structures began in the U.K. in 1880 with 50 prehistoric sites like standing stones in Stonehenge being given protection. It was 120 years or so before Jersey really put listing of buildings on the statute. I mean, we have had to wait a century. Of course the main listing of buildings in the U.K. came after the Blitz for obvious reasons, from 1944 through to 1948 where people were saying the Luftwaffe are destroying important working men’s cottages, terraces of them. That is as important to retain as a castle or a palace. But it was not until after 1995 that we had proper listing of buildings, nearly half a century later than the U.K. Of course it came too late for the cultural vandalism of the destruction of Colomberie House in 1995 - should never have happened - and its replacement has lasted 30 years before that has been turned into something else now, apartments. We are losing too many listed buildings in St. Helier. We have lost 6 in the last 4 months. The problem is viability; a developer will come along and say: “My scheme is only viable with the destruction of those buildings.” We need to get in earlier and draw the red lines because the whole viability thing is a joke currently because all the developer has to do is say: “Here is my financial projections” show them to some officers, they say: “Yes, I see what you mean, okay, yes, they can go, those listed buildings.” It is not right. We have to set the red lines early on in the process so that the developer comes up with a viable scheme which still retains the important character of St. Helier because we are getting development that could be anywhere in the world. Keeping little pockets of listed buildings - even if they are surrounded by new stuff - retains character. Character and heritage is so vital to our economic future. It just amazes me that after the Colomberie House thing I am having to fight now to save the 1937 airport building where 19 Members of the Assembly were happy for that not to be given a second look at, a possible reprieve: the most important building in St. Peter. By the way, the Regulator has just come out and said it does not transgress the 1:7 transitional surface, it is not a hazard, it is not unsafe. After the debate we have had that from the Regulator. So I will go to war with Senator Mézec on the Odeon. It is subjective, is it not, what building we find attractive to our eye and worthy of saving. Of course you are going to get lots of opinions and that is why we hire people to make those decisions objectively. We have got to honour that otherwise the whole process collapses. I think we have got to beef up our Historic Environment Department and give them much more support and early on. I have floated this with the department and barriers have started to go up, and I plead with the Minister to not let those barriers go up. It is not right to say: “Well we have always done it this way and that is how we operate.” We have got to look at new ways when it is not working and we are losing too much character. We have to move with the times. When, for instance, somebody wants to extend their house in the green zone and they come along and part of the plan has an office, the department goes: “No, no, no, no, that can be used as an extra bedroom which you are not allowed so, no, to those plans.” We have got to rethink that because it is absolutely valid for people to put a room in new development where they can sit and work at their computer, and that is what we want them to do. If you remember on 1st December in the debate about parking charges and extending them I said to the Chief Minister: “You can reduce traffic congestion in St. Helier by 20 per cent at a stroke by telling those members of the civil service who work at a computer at a desk not to come into town for one day a week.” That was pre-COVID but COVID has proved that, has it not, working from home? So we have got to encourage developers to put space to work on your computer into new developments so that we are not doing it in a bedroom and we are not doing it in the lounge with our families; that there is a dedicated space. I just sound a note of caution about the Parishes identifying sites for building because the sorry story of the Ville du Manoir development, or whatever it was called, opposite the pub in St. Peter is really tragic, principally because it unfairly raised the expectations of people who are desperate for a home in that Parish. It is all very well identifying sites but we need some red lines there too in terms of those fields are prime agricultural land. It is amazing that one of the arguments put forward by some of those wanting that development is that it was not prime agricultural land. Ask any potato grower if they would be happy to grow potatoes in there; they would. So there is land in St. Peter where a couple of inches and you hit bedrock around the airport, so there is land that is less good than other land, and if we have to take fields it should be the least productive agriculturally. I do not know if others have been through Dr. Ian Skinner’s Future Jersey document, which is brilliant and not referred to enough, but he sets a date if we carry on the way we are doing with green fields it is finite and in that document is the date in which there are no more left to build from. I also think - and I am going to finish because I know other people want to speak, I could speak for the rest of the day on this but I will not - we should unlock the potential in the green zone of buildings that already exist. Some of them are from the 1700s, they are built of granite, they are beautiful, and they would make fantastic homes. A lot of them are in the ownership of Jersey families who are asset rich and cash poor. We should be able to give some help to those families to develop the potential of buildings that already exist in the green zone. At the moment if I had a barn - and I do not - to develop in the road where I live now I would go through tremendous hoops because of green zone policy to be able to develop this existing building into accommodation.
Yet, 100 yards down the road there is the site of an old greenhouse that is going to take 50, 60 homes or more. So it does not make sense, a lot of that green zone policy, and I am very passionate about protecting the green zone but I think when people want to accommodate their family or something by extending we should be more open to that. So those are a few things that I think are high on my priority list and I wanted to just reiterate them here, thank you.
The Deputy Bailiff:
I have 11 Members listed to speak who have not spoken before in this debate, so I invite Members to consider making their speeches concise so as to ensure that we complete at the originally allotted time. The next speaker is the Deputy of St. Ouen.
Deputy J. H. Young:
I apologise for interrupting, Sir. I think from my point of view as Minister we are really getting a lot from this debate and I wondered if Members wanted to perhaps have a modest extension of perhaps half an hour. I do not know whether that is a choice that Members would like to make.
The Deputy Bailiff:
Well the decision on when to close the debate is the Presiding Officer’s but I can indicate that I do not propose to close the debate at 12.45 p.m. or 1.00 p.m. at this stage and I agree with you we should see how things go and Members should have the opportunity to speak.
Deputy K.F. Morel:
I do apologise for butting in. I was just wondering with the extensions you just mentioned would that be a break for lunch and then continue or would it be ...
The Deputy Bailiff:
Let us see where we get to in half an hour and review it then, if that is all right with you.
I just want to say a few words from the perspective of a rural Parish Deputy really, and there has been a lot of talk about concentrating additional housing in town or suburbs of St. Helier and clearly that would be possible. But I do have a concern for the rural Parishes. I think it is reasonable to say that they should also be taking on some of the responsibility of providing housing, and in fact that is not to the detriment of the rural Parishes, it would be very much to their advantage because quite frankly the rural communities would run the risk of failure if they did not develop those communities. They would become dormitories of St. Helier really and we must avoid that and I think we are running into a risk of that happening. The Deputy of St. Martin has spoken about what they have been able to do in St. Martin and introduce new development, families coming in, and that is what needs to happen in the Parishes. But in St. Ouen we have not been able to carry out that sort of development for some decades now and what has happened is that we seem to have a wonderful quite settled population at St. Ouen with families who seem to want to stay in the Parish, but the families who moved into the village developments in the 1970s and 1980s are now retired and are grandparents or even great grandparents and their grandchildren are not in the Parish. They have trouble finding accommodation; they would love to be close to family and the like. So we have in large parts a significantly elderly population in developments that were intended to be for families, first-time buyer homes and the like. What this means is that life in the community becomes centred around activities of senior citizens. We have a small youth club, we have trouble recruiting youth workers and people to conduct that sort of work. Honorary police have difficulty recruiting, though fortunately in St. Ouen we are in a good position, but it is a small pool to draw upon. Many other community facilities rely on a cohort of younger healthy people to act as volunteers, they are there but there is a limited number of them and sometimes it is the same people doing lots of things. So it is important that those communities have capacity to build and develop themselves as vibrant communities, and that does mean bringing more people in. That does mean, I would say, using agricultural land and some will say: “No, no, no, we should for ever protect that” but the trouble with our village in St. Ouen is that we have no brown field sites that are affordable, that we could use. If we said we would protect all agricultural land in the Parish then our community will ultimately become a dormitory of St. Helier and we would lose a vibrancy that exists around a community. Some people say: “Well, we could provide hamlets all over the Parish so that we could use redundant farm buildings, we could especially use redundant glass house sites.” You might have 12 on one and then half a mile away you build another 20 and the like, and you would have these little developments dotted all around Parishes. I do not think that is a good way to retain a rural character. It would add to congestion, it would just look like pocket development all over the place. It is not the vision I would like to see for our rural areas. So that means, and I think it perfectly reasonable, that we should concentrate development around the centre of the Parish, the villages. That should be for our young families who need affordable accommodation but also sheltered accommodation because we have seen in recent decades that the homes that we did build in St. Ouen and were at their outset occupied perhaps for 5, maximum of 10 years, they are now being occupied by people for 30 or even 40 years. This is becoming a lifelong home for them so they need to have space to receive families and be active in the community, they need good facilities, and for those sheltered homes for people as they grow older we need to build in the technology that allows them to remain in those homes and live out their lives and not be stuck that their only choice is to move into residential care. St. Ouen has been wanting to develop in this way for a long time but we have been stuck because we are surrounded by green zone, whereas St. Martin managed to achieve it and we do not quite understand in St. Ouen why we failed despite trying. I hope we might through this next iteration of the Island Plan be able to proceed because there is a will within the Parish to build for our first-time buyers and for sheltered homes. We need a better process to meet that need and to be able to release plans. With the developments we also need community facilities, most important if we enlarge our villages, we need open spaces, we need traffic free zones, we need cycle routes, we need things like cafes. We had a café in St. Ouen but it was taken for a housing development because of the far more valuable use of the land. That is missed. People who are in the Parish do find other places to go to but it is not in the centre, it is around on the beaches. I would love to see in rural areas a kind of health hub so that therapists can go for a half day and conduct their therapies or exercise classes in a space that is large enough to accommodate a dozen or 20 people. We should not just rely on Parish Hall availability because if we are trying to build vibrant communities a Parish Hall I would expect would be booked up a lot of the time. We need to have those perhaps smaller spaces to use. We need to ensure the Parishes can be closely involved with planning what they want to do and allow them a degree of independence so each Parish is so proud of its personality, its individuality, and let them be a bit quirky if they sometimes wish to do something which other Parishes are not. When we get to the stage of bringing plans forward it will have received an approval from a Parish Assembly which will always be very well attended, which will excite parishioners, which will stimulate interest. I would ask that in any developments that could proceed Parishes be assured that at least a very good proportion of what is built would be for allocation to those with Parish links. Now, I know not everybody accepts that and I can understand the arguments but we can share. There could be some proportion available for all on a waiting list and another proportion for those with close Parish links. That would ensure acceptability in the Parishes, it would build a community and, let us face it, everyone has links to a Parish; even townspeople have links to a Parish. So this can be a mechanism and I hope the Island Plan will begin to unlock some of these procedures and allow the rural Parishes to make and plan those developments to ensure that Island life does not just happen in town and everybody travels to town for their life and well-being, but we can have vibrant Parish communities. So that is my perspective and I thank you for the opportunity to speak.
Firstly I would just like to commend the Minister for his initiative in bringing forward the concept of a Bridging Plan which will cover us for the next 2 to 3 years. While I understand the concept of centralising development in St. Helier I absolutely do agree with Deputy Labey that that must not be at the expense of protecting the green spaces within St. Helier and we should, if anything, be attempting to create more and returning some areas to green spaces if we can. I was shocked when we saw the 5 sites for the hospital, that within that there were 2 parks, one of which we had already voted on and said we would not build on, another which is the site of a dolmen and, therefore, of significant historical interest. A third site was the open space at Millbrook and finally we had prime agricultural land at Five Oaks. So, yes, while we may differ perhaps on … and he mentioned the airport building, our views differ on that but I do absolutely agree with him about St. Helier. It must be a place where people want to live, enjoy living and have the facilities such as green spaces which they can enjoy. There should be sufficient development outside of St. Helier to sustain our Parish communities and businesses within them. We want to be able to attract young families and first-time buyers to live in the communities where perhaps they were originally born, where they have existing family connections and possibly Parish connections. The Bridging Plan must allow for such sites to be identified and enable us to use them for future development. While we created a Parish plan - and I am only going to very briefly talk about that - but what I would say is that we come back to the community spaces, green spaces and play areas.
I spoke with both the children at the Parish school and also having engaged the youth leader on our Parish Planning Committee, she spoke with all the members of the youth club, and top of the priority list for the young people was community areas, play equipment for the younger ones and sports equipment of some form for those who were slightly older. It is very important that within our Island Plan we have those facilities. We must also think of cycle routes and a Sustainable Transport Plan. Also in our Parish plan - and we must not forget this - is over-55 development because that will often free up houses that might not otherwise become available. We have 14 over-55 units in St. Peter and last summer we had 21 applicants for one unit. This month, possibly due to COVID, we had 11 applicants. But the vast majority of those people would have been selling what had been their family home which was now too large for them, to move into that accommodation. That is important because those units would have then gone back into the properties that were available. I think that is probably as much as I should say, I know other people wish to speak so I will leave it there. Thank you very much.
I am just calling up my notes and having a few difficulties in doing so. I am only going to speak once in this debate so I will probably range over a number of different areas, or ramble as people may say. I am going to talk about general points first and then concentrate on St. Helier. I agree with the comments mentioned earlier about the need to get on with house building projects to provide housing for our children. I am also pleased that Senator Mézec, Deputy Ward and the Chief Minister have listened to my past comments about the danger of housing being snapped up by overseas investors and wealthy Island residents, not to live in but as profitable investments with the effect of denying Islanders the opportunity to get on the housing ladder by pushing up the cost of houses to buy and to rent. I hope that they will support my Proposition P.93, the establishment of a digital register for all commercial and residential properties which will be debated in September, to give us the information to identify the scale and nature of the problem so we can find the best tools to deal with. On the question of housing I am concerned with what I have heard from the Deputy of St. Ouen. I agree keeping Parishes alive by allowing some development but I am opposed to geographical apartheid where you would only allow Parish residents or ex-Parish residents to live there. We need to have an integrated community. Moving on to another point: La Collette. We have to deal with the fuel farm; we need to remove it so the site can be developed to its true potential, whether it be for commercial use or even housing use. Very controversially a suggestion I might make is place the tanks in concrete caissons such as are used in the North Sea for storing oil. I also believe that we need to extend the harbour in some way to accept larger vessels and, dare I say it, cruise ships. I realise the importance of the Ramsar site but like all things we need to balance the competing views and needs in this area. I would also like to see Normans’ commercial buildings moved to Collette, or certainly the activities that go on there, and transform the area around the harbour into a tourism attraction perhaps involving craft shops. Now, the biggest problem with this is the road to La Collette for commercial vehicles. Perhaps we could keep the granite façade near the harbour and reroute the road around the back of them. I know there are problems but we need to look at these and see what we can do. I also want to go on to tourism or the hospitality industry. The COVID crisis is affecting the hospital industry and we must sustain this industry as it is the only one that we have which we have a degree of control over. I accept that agriculture and fishing are important, but not necessary for their contribution to the gross value added of the Island but for other reasons, whether it be protection of the countryside and also the sea. Finance is important from a G.V.A. (gross value added) perspective but it could easily pick up sticks in an instant and move if restrictions were [offline] ... what does this have to do with tourism? Well I have often gone on about sites such as South Hill where Planning were located. I would rather see a hotel on the site with a view over St. Aubin’s bay which would assist tourism, rather than luxury apartments for the view which make a fortune for the developer. In this case it is the States of Jersey Development Company which means easy bonuses for the directors who would be developing this important publicly owned site. Moving on, I agree with Deputy Luce about the need for a new reservoir and I agree with the use of the quarry site for it. If I can then concentrate on St. Helier, I accept that most houses will probably be in St. Helier but, like other Deputies, I do not want to see St. Helier becoming a high rise capital or a concrete jungle without its green lungs, its parks and trees. In my youth I lived in London Ontario in Canada. It was known as the forest city. The trees meant it was an enjoyable and beautiful place to live and I would love to see more trees in St. Helier. One or 2 Members have already talked about how under the proposals for the hospital, which I accept did not come from the Government but came from the panel that was set up ... however, the idea of including 2 of St. Helier’s parks for the hospital as far as I am concerned is a non-starter. I also think too that using Millbrook Park is a non-starter and I am sure that St. Helier Deputies who will be fighting to preserve theirs will also assist St. Lawrence’s Deputies to preserve their green space. This is not N.I.M.B.Y-ism, (not in my back yard) as I am happy to agree with a hospital being located at Overdale and my view is let us get on with it and save our green lungs. Let me just go on to some other points. I agree with Deputy Ward with the need to mix younger and older members of our community, and I would like to thank the Attorney General - which is rather strange in a debate on the Island Plan - because he has agreed to move out of the Sun Works building adjacent to First Tower School so that we can now finally develop it as a community centre for the benefit of the people of First Tower, for the youth club which is housed there, for the benefit of First Tower School and the elderly members of our community. I also agree with the statements that were made about the arm’s-length companies and about S.o.J.D.C. (States of Jersey Development Company), and I have already mentioned it in terms of building properties which will basically provide income for overseas or wealthy Islanders rather than housing at affordable rates for Islanders. I also agree with the idea of electric cars and car pooling. I would give up my car tomorrow if I could hire a car at a reasonable cost so that when I want to go out of St. Helier I could do so easily. It would save me a small fortune, the cost of the hire purchase on my car, the cost of parking and the parking tickets I pick up frequently by not having a parking space at my home, the cost of insurance, the cost of fuel. I am sure many others would feel the same way. So we have got to be imaginative going forward and we have got to also look at a number of items which are sacred cows for some people. I agree with preserving our heritage but to be honest and truthful not every building needs to be preserved. The Island cannot be sort of set in aspic so nothing ever changes. I will leave it at this time and give others the opportunity to speak too, but I do look forward to the future debates. Thank you.
Along with many other contributors I appreciate that the Parish of St. Helier will probably end up shouldering most of the future development but I do not want to leave myself open to the criticism of the Constable of St. Helier that the Constable of Trinity does not want to give up any of his green fields. I will return to St. Helier in a moment. Along with the comments of Deputy Labey already about some relaxation in green zone policy must come. We need to use the existing and redundant buildings in the countryside to better use so that we take some of the pressure off the need for homes in the urban areas. There are too many redundant buildings that we visit on Planning where we are unable due to policy restrictions to grant permission for developments which are clearly obvious and will do no harm to the countryside. Also the idea of giving some ease or relaxation when Parishes come forward with their own housing schemes; I believe that the Parishes and the Constables and their various committees are best placed to know what is best for the individual Parishes. We as a Parish have currently 29 over-55 retirement bungalows and this morning my secretary replied to a correspondent to inquire where they were on the waiting list, and unfortunately she had to tell them that they were number 36 on a list of 49 current applications. We have just updated that list so I know that it is valid. We had an opportunity recently and I have been to Planning with a scheme to provide additional bungalows in a greener environment very close to my Parish Hall, but basically just got sent away and told: “It does not meet with policy and you will have to make a Parish-wide review” and all the rest that goes with it. There is no positive help and I think with a bit more help we could deliver some much needed over-55s to release stock to other people who want to move up the ladder. Returning to St. Helier; as a Planning Applications Committee member we too often are considering applications for large blocks of flats which we have to do in isolation. We are unable to consider the impact on is there enough green space, where are the children going to go for their community activities and youth facilities, green space, trees, schools. Why are the Education Department not a consultee to the planning application process because we are approving apartment after apartment and there is nowhere for the children who will eventually be in these apartments to go to school nearby? They are being transported out of town and I know examples where people who live in town are driving every day to bring their children to Trinity School. It cannot be right, environmentally for a start off and for the disruption it causes to family life. Decent sized accommodation built for quality living as our continental cousins do has got to be the way forward, in quality developments where there is decent living space provided, not just maximising on density of sites but building places to live, not just focusing on density. It is all too short term at the moment. We must be hitting a point where we are going to be saturated in a few years’ time with one-bedroom flats occupied by people who are starting to have their own families and need to move on. Where are they going to move to? There will just be an ocean of one-bedroom flats in town. I think that one other thing we need to consider is the provision of a reservoir and, as the Deputy of St. Martin has already indicated, the existing quarry in St. Peter is an ideal location. But we also need to consider on the other side what are we going to do with all of the material arising from demolition of these schemes that are going on at the moment? We cannot have much room left at La Collette and we need to be thinking in advance about where that material is going to be deposited.
Some further reclamation I guess is probably going to be the only sensible way forward. So my comments would be, yes, we have to build and we have to get the balance right of quality of accommodation that we are providing, balancing affordability with liveability. Thank you.
The Deputy Bailiff:
I can see that the time is now 12.45 p.m. There are 9 Members to speak who have not yet spoken in this section of the debate. I note the adjournment is proposed and I would suggest, subject to the view of Members, that we do adjourn now in the usual way and the debate continues. It may naturally conclude at some point this afternoon but in any event I would close the debate at 5.00 p.m. and at that stage give the Minister a chance to respond. Minister, are you content with that proposal? Deputy Young? We cannot hear. Your microphone may be off.
Deputy M. Tadier of St. Brelade:
Sir, it is Deputy Tadier, and in the absence of the Minister and as an Assistant Minister that sounds like a sensible way forward.
The Deputy Bailiff:
I am grateful, Deputy. The adjournment has been proposed.
Deputy J.H. Young:
Sir, we have an I.T. (information technology) issue that has prevented me from speaking. If the Assembly and yourself wish that, that will be fine. That is a good idea.
The Deputy Bailiff:
Thank you. Well the Assembly will now adjourn until 2.15 p.m. and then we will resume the debate.
The Deputy Greffier of the States (in the Chair):
We continue the in-committee debate on the key planning challenges, Section 2 of the running order. Next on the list I have Deputy Southern to speak.
What I have to say, to a certain extent, echoes what our Minister for Children and Housing has said. But I want to start, this is my third Island Plan I have sat through, it does not get any easier. I think the record 46 amendments to an Island Plan but I am sure we can beat that this year. When I first joined the Assembly I asked about this Island Plan and what was it about. I was told in no uncertain terms that I did not have to worry too much about it because for every rule, I was told by the wise old hands who sat with me, there is an exception and all you had to do is turn 20-odd pages and you will find the exception and things will go ahead anyway. I was being permanently reminded by the then Minister for Planning that the idea was to make St. Helier a lively vibrant place and a nice place to live. I said to the Minister at the time, Senator Cohen: “The day you move into St. Helier I will believe you and that maybe it is working.” But once again, what we have here is a town versus country argument where all the development and all the new flats have to be in St. Helier. I want to say, first and foremost, St. Helier is full. But we are told that we can pile some more flats in St. Helier as long as we add some green belt to it, make it green and pleasant to be there. In terms of the reality of that I have to ask: what guarantees have we got there? It is betrayed, I think, by the fact that here we are again, looking for a site for a hospital and 2 of the sites are green spaces in St. Helier. What does that say about anybody’s promises to green up St. Helier and make it a pleasant place? I think it reduces it to what it is, just a form of words. The question is: where are we going to have these extra spaces and these extra facilities and community needs? Who is going to pay for those? Well my experience says it will not be the developer. I remember a Dandara development in Gloucester Street, one of the blocks we were promised they were going to build a creche/nursery to look after children who might be living there or living around. Three months before the end of the contract that was pulled so I would say, whatever happens, if you get promises for community benefit then make them legally enforceable because it does not mean anything. Even worse, is what is happening now with the newest developments around the Millennium Town Park. We are talking about 280, or thereabouts, flats on the brown field site, the play.com site, and we are told that that could take it because we have negotiated a greener space next to Millennium Town Park in Gas Place and we would use it under there, therefore the argument goes we can pile some more in here. It just annoys me being preached about by Senators, in particular, who live in the green leafy Parishes up north that we can and must develop St. Helier at the expense of all the other Parishes. That strikes me as being quite upsetting that they should say what happens in St. Helier when they are not prepared to contribute anything more than some token buildings. While representatives of the northern country Parishes, green Parishes, can talk about 20 homes developed in their Parish or 29 bungalows in another Parish we are talking about 280 flats, apartments at a go. That just swamps the contribution of the Parishes. I say that what we should do is lift that ban on developing in the Parishes, in the green zones, and make them take their fair share because they are not at the moment. The fact is that I believe the words are: St Helier is full. Stop this development.
Pedestrian areas have been mentioned absolutely essential to the vibrancy of St. Helier town but we have to make a compromise and it is not easy. I always say that we can close off some of the veins in town but not the arteries because that is what keeps town vibrant. It is a very tough call. Buses, bikes and bike lanes, obviously we just completed the S.T.P. (Sustainable Transport Policy), then we got hit by COVID-19 so that was a very difficult situation. But we are still ploughing ahead with bike lanes in St. Helier as fast as we can. We do need some spares from the U.K. but I am pushing that as hard as my department can take it. We do have quite a bit going on with bike racks, et cetera, in town. We were quite lucky originally regarding the cycle network, inasmuch as we inherited the old western railway line and that was wonderful. We put the hoggin down and we have the western cycle track, which we have expanded now to go round to Havre des Pas. The eastern line was sold off for housing so we have to start from scratch and I have had a meeting recently with Senator Pallett with regard to a few lanes on that one but it is not easy. Lots of people to consult. I cannot go tearing up people’s gardens. I have to work with what we have but the Island is saturated at the moment, as we all know, so everything we do is retrofitting, which has its own problems. Built-up areas of St. Helier, I will remind Members that the north-east of St. Helier town and the south-east of town are in St. Saviour. It is very difficult, you can walk from the middle of town in St. Helier through St. Saviour down to St. Clement without seeing any fields. It is that built up. The whole south of the Island is built up. It is not just a problem for St. Helier town itself. Energy from Waste plant have been mentioned. We do have quite a few years left with the Energy from Waste plant or the Energy Recovery Facility, that it has now been authenticated as, but because we are doing so much recycling now, which is quite good, that obviously we are extending the life of the energy recovery facility. So that will keep us going well into the future. Water was mentioned, La Gigoulande Quarry. I fully agree with that. We certainly do need water and we need more of it because there is quite a lot of water that does flush out straight to fresh water and go straight to sea. We have 110,000 residents now, and the demand is quite high. When you think of the old automatic washing machines, I think it was about 60 gallons for a wash on one of those and every time the loo is flushed, that is 3 gallons. We do have a phenomenal consumption. All for more trees in St. Helier and the Island as a whole. My own Department for Infrastructure are very keen on planting trees. I know Environment is too and terrific bodies, like Trees for Life, but we have to make sure we get the right trees in the right place. Not so long ago we had a nice tree-lined avenue down at Rue des Pres Trading Estate and sadly they were the wrong trees in the wrong place and they were bringing up all the drains and the roads, so sadly they had to be felled and new more appropriate trees planted. Air monitoring was mentioned; obviously all for that but that is our colleagues at Environment that do the air quality monitoring. I have mentioned St. Helier, St. Saviour and St. Clement. Transport; eastern cycle track I have mentioned. We have to think Island-wide more than just St. Helier because this is an Island-wide problem. To be possibly a little selfish, if you like, from an Infrastructure point of view, if it happens in town it makes it easier for the department because we do not need saturated roads and likewise for the drainage system, it makes life easier if things are in town to get the drainage going. I mentioned previously it is my desire before I leave office, I think we are up to about 91, 92 per cent of homes are on mains drains. I would like, before I leave office, to make that much, much higher but that is going to take a few years. Congestion around the lower part of the Island; St. Helier, St. Lawrence, St. Brelade and obviously St. Saviour and St. Clement take the brunt. We do have an excellent bus service running on the south part of the Island. I would like to improve that going up north but I have looked at quite a lot of different modes of transport, even a tram that operates on road wheels, which does seem to work very well. A sort of 5 carriage tram is a possibility. It is expensive but we can do it. Wonderful old buildings like the Odeon, for instance. I reopened the Odeon when it closed and ran it with my wife for 5 years as an independent cinema. People thought I was always waving the flag for the Odeon to be preserved when in fact it was the old Forum Cinema in Granville Street that I had a passion for. That it was a wonderful art deco building and if people say they were not born at the time in the 1970s I get very depressed. I was the chief projectionist at the old Forum Cinema in the 1970s. Hospital: obviously that is under consideration and I believe all sites had to be put in and it will be whittled down to the best site. The news is there is no perfect site so we have to go for the least worst site. Reclamation was mentioned; that is a possibility. Down at La Collette we have our partner down there AA Langlois, who do an absolutely fantastic job filtering through all the rubble that comes in, what can be reused, what can be reclaimed but it is filling up. They are doing a bit of mining down there now to see if there is any more that can be brought out and reclaimed, which is all good news. La Collette, will have a few years left in it but not much so we will need to look at other sites and possibility of more reclamation is not out of the question. Cruise shops were mentioned as a possible income. I think that is going to take quite a few years for the cruise business to re-establish itself. It obviously has had quite a big knock with COVID-19, plus our friends in Guernsey obviously have a deep harbour so they do get more cruise ships than we do but I do not believe the cruise ships spend much money.
Because on the cruise ships nowadays everything is found for you; both food and drinks, as much as you would like to eat and possibly drink. So I do not think they will be spending too much money ashore. It would be nice to get a coach trip for them up to Durrell, et cetera, but I do not think they spend much locally. I will hold it there. I will let other Members speak but interested to see Members’ views.
It is a pleasure to speak but I have to say that I had not intended to speak today because ordinarily the Connétable of St. John would cover matters relating to developing in the Parish but, as we know, he is not with us today and I trust he makes a swift recovery. In 2011, La Comite de la Comune Rurale de St Jean carried out a survey of Parish residents and the results were used to inform a response to the then infant Island Plan. Last summer the States of Jersey launched a consultation process and documentation for the new Island Plan covering 2021 to 2030. A call for sites prompted the Parish to reform La Comite de la Comune Rurale de St Jean to assist with the Parish’s response to the consultation and the reformed La Comite de la Comune Rurale. They decided to conduct a similar survey exercise but also include some new themes, examples being renewable energy and the Coastal National Park. Many of the 2011 survey questions were repeated to allow a comparison to be made between that survey and the 2020 results. The survey questionnaire was circulated at the end of January 2020 to 1,237 addresses in the Parish, prompting 218 replies. In broad terms the survey prompted concerns about the proportion of Parish residents over 66 years of age. In 2011, 31 per cent of respondents were in that group but in 2020 this had risen to 48 per cent of the respondents. Conversely the numbers of younger respondents fell significantly. Of those aged between 17 and 55 the reverse was the case. In 2011, 49 per cent of respondents were in this group but this fell to 32 per cent in 2020. This for the Parish revealed a worrying trend because in this reverse the Parish will be in danger of slowing withering away. With this change in demographic as the driving force, a number of key priority projects have been identified: (1) a need for more sheltered housing for people over the age of 55 who do not have the means to purchase property; (2) the provision of affordable homes for the elderly to enable people over 55 to downsize and free up larger properties for younger people with families; (3) the Parish needs affordable homes for first-time buyers that cannot be sold on for a quick profit but in which the Parish would retain a financial interest. We also need increased green space available to the Parish population and to achieve this there is an intention to create a new woodland area with a variety of tree species and the creation of a foraging area. To enable the Parish to play its part in the Island’s need for new and affordable housing urgent attention will have to be given to extension of mains drains and mains water to sites suitable for small scale developments. In the process, properties that are currently beyond mains services would at long last benefit. In addition to the identified need for development there is a grave concern expressed about ease of passage and safety for pedestrians and cyclists. Traffic volumes and speeds are a real issue in St. John Village and Sion Village. So a significant number of sites have already been identified by the Connétable and agreed by the Comité and the proposals were to be presented to the Parish Assembly in March but we all know what happened in March. The proposals have been circulated in the Parish magazine and a response process is in train. The Parish will be ready to make its contribution to the Island Plan. Thank you.
Perhaps I could begin by saying I only have one major point to make. At the time of the hustings at the last elections I was asked to identify what I considered to be the single most important issue in the forthcoming Assembly and without hesitation I was able to say the new Island Plan. I went on to explain my reason for that was you could not devise an Island Plan without at the same time looking at the integrated matters which determine it, such as Population Policy, infrastructure, need for schools, beds in hospitals, et cetera. In that context, it is indeed disappointing that little progress appears to be made on the population question. However, I do accept Senator Mézec’s point that, notwithstanding that, there is a need for housing and we must do what we can to get on with it. My concern and my point relates to the infrastructure which surrounds that initial housing. I say this in the context of certain planning permissions, as I understand it, and the present system are given subject to adherence to an additional planning obligation, which requires the developer to lay on a particular facility, which might be as small as a bus shelter, and necessary for that small facility. In addition, I am aware, and I was Chairman of the Environment Scrutiny Panel at the time, that the previous Minister for the Environment sought to introduce a community infrastructure levy, which I suspect may well raise its head again. The point I am making, is that in both those cases the contribution they were making was first, relatively small, and will come from the developer of that particular development. I simply question whether that is the appropriate way of looking at matters. It is I think generally accepted that most of new development will come within the boundaries of St. Helier, and I fully agree with points made by Senator Mézec and Deputy Southern. That will put additional burden on them. I simply question why that should not be an Island-wide burden. Where I am coming to is the fact that rather than have the small contributions from local levies, we do need to revisit our taxation system in relation to property on the simple basis that if residents of my Parish or any other Parish are benefiting from the fact that housing is in St. Helier rather than their Parish they should be sufficiently grateful to be able to accept that the additional costs involved should come from general taxation. What I am really suggesting is that, in tandem with the Island Plan, I hope that consideration will be given to introducing ... I would not call it a capital gains tax,I know that certain Members would run for cover at the very suggestion but some form of development land tax or betterment levy, which will be an Island-wide levy on all people who gain advantage by the stroke of a pen of the planning officer. Reverting to the question of St. Helier and its viability, I was somewhat disappointed to hear Deputy Southern’s comments about the town versus country divide. That was a concern of mine when I first entered the States but I was very pleased to see that it did not really exist. Certainly for my part, I regard keeping the northern Parishes green or as green as they can comfortably be. It is not just a benefit to the residence but to the tourist industry and particularly to the residents of St. Helier who would like to come into the countryside at weekends or whenever. I do believe that we do need to take a more holistic approach to this whole Island question. But before leaving the question of St. Helier, I again take note of what Senator Mézec said about further representation and I hope you will remember that I did support him in his original Proposition that consideration should be given to St. Helier having its own council with more powers than it does. I welcome that. I do not see why they should not be given more power and I hope that by having it, it will take the heat out of some of the problems they feel does exist when decisions on their matters are being taken by Members who have no residences in St. Helier. But my main point is that taxation, and I hope that is not going off piste slightly, does need to be looked at with a view to funding some of the developments and the ancillary accommodation, which will be created by them.
I just want to talk briefly on 2 points. Obviously the hospital and then the potential for a marine park. Members will be aware that a short list of 5 sites is due to be reduced to one as soon as possible so that we can lodge a proposition in September for the final preferred site, or it might be 2 sites. Ultimately, it will be a political decision and that decision needs to be made in November if we are to deliver a hospital for the people of Jersey on time. If we are going to get on and build it. But there is a potential timing issue with the statutory review of the Island Plan running at the same time as a project and to ensure the hospital could not proceed. Very good supplementary planning guidance has been produced, which has been very helpful in steering the project into the next stages, and it means that the hospital planning application can be determined even if the new Island Plan is not adopted. So the supplementary planning guidance will be used in conjunction with the existing Island Plan, that is the current situation, and the planning application process will reflect that at whatever stage the Bridging Plan or the proposal that Deputy Young is bringing forward now has reached in order that we can get to a decision. I am sure we all recognise that the Island Plan is subject to a statutory process and independent review. While this is not affected in principle by States decisions I would hope that considerable weight will be attached to the outcome of this debate in helping the Ministers, when they go forward, considerable weight is added to the location of the new hospital. Establishing the principle of the location in the Island Plan will assist significantly delivery of the hospital on time and the design and appearance can be considered in the usual way through the submission of the planning application, and that is the timescale we are working to. So it was just to put that on record that that is going to be an important part of ultimately where we end up. Some Members may remember the aspirations for a marine park. I know I have spoken to the Minister for the Environment and the Assistant Minister and other Ministers about it in the past but everything has gone a little bit quiet because of COVID-19 but a lot of work has been going on in the background about that. So I would like the Minister for the Environment, if he could just acknowledge the great potential of a marine park to be included in the Island Plan. This could have massive benefits for the Island as a high-end ecotourism destination for its marine environment, for our fish stocks and for overall carbon neutrality.
It can also represent a new beginning for Jersey’s inshore fishing fleet, which will be able to fish in areas that will not have been trawled and to continue to grow the potential and success of marketing their fish within the Island rather than to totally rely on export markets as they, as I have said, have done so successfully during lockdown. A marine park could be 800 or 900 square kilometres of highly protected area, 7 or 8 times the size of the Island itself, and would be one of the largest highly protected parks in northern Europe, if not the largest. I know all the stakeholders involved in the work behind the scenes now are checking the terms, which will depend upon the degree of protection, but it could be 30 per cent or 40 per cent of Jersey’s territorial waters and the degree of protection will exceed by far current practices in the U.K. and France. I just wanted to put that on the record. It would be helpful and welcome to get the nod from Deputy Young that it is still an important priority for the Island and that the huge benefits of doing something like that is recognised and that that will be a part of the new Island Plan or the abridged Island Plan. Of course, I will be hoping to update not only Deputy Young and Deputy Guida but other Ministers and all States Members on the progress of that in the very near future.
I am very pleased to follow Senator Farnham, picking up from the theme of parks. Senator Farnham was talking about a marine park, which I agree, I see enormous potential for. I have a list of things I want to say and I apologise for the fairly disparate nature of that list, but I will rattle on through it quickly. Starting with protecting Jersey’s spaces, which a marine park is part of, I do feel that we need to designate certain areas of the Island in a way which is stronger than the green zone. We have currently the Coastal National Park as Jersey’s highest level of protection, but I do feel we need to bring that inland as well and have areas … and I will use one in my Parish, which is St. Lawrence Valley, also known as Waterworks Valley, which I believe would be a fantastic site to be protected against pretty much all development and used in a more country park-style way. Certainly, Senator Le Fondré has helped in his previous efforts through the building of a pathway all the way through that valley and, yes, I think we need to identify areas within Jersey which can be given the very, very highest level of protection from any development. That brings me then to St. Helier. I completely agree about the need for green space in St. Helier, but aside from just larger green spaces, such as parkland, I do believe St. Helier needs a greater level of tree planting. I think when development is being undertaken in St. Helier, I do feel that the Island Plan should stipulate that trees form parts of those developments because St. Helier is, sadly among towns that I visit, one which does not have a great number of trees within it. Which then takes me on to the wider issue of tree protection. I am not sure entirely if this falls within the Island Plan, but Jersey is wonderful because of the trees it has. As many of us know, we had many more before 1987, but unfortunately it is still the case that trees appear to be lopped down at landowners’ will. I know where this has happened in the Island in a few areas in recent months. I just do not believe that with the carbon neutral aspirations that we have that we can keep going along this line of just giving landowners the entire right to remove trees on their land at their will. So, I do feel that if it is possible within the Island Plan then tree protection should be a part of it. Similarly, I am not sure whether this is entirely within the gift of the Island Plan but I think it certainly spills out into building controls, but I do believe we need to create an Island Plan that challenges the construction industry to build in a more sustainable manner and to build communities and even small housing developments which have a much higher standard of sustainability than we currently have. I do feel that the construction industry is not challenged enough in this area and, yes, obviously energy efficiency, things like this, have improved over the years, but I think we need to ask them to go further. This Island Plan is an excellent opportunity to challenge the industry to up its game in terms of the sustainability of its construction projects. One area where I think you could see this immediately is we have talked about the need for new water supplies and Gigoulande has been mentioned as a possible site for a reservoir. Fine, that is absolutely fine. If that is needed and that is a suitable place, then I understand that, but again I feel that while the Island Plan can say maybe that is an area for a reservoir, we need to use that as a challenge to developers and also Jersey Water by saying you can only have that reservoir area if, indeed, you start building homes in a way where they have 2 water systems, one for drinking and washing and the other for all other purposes. Because I still believe it is quite simply scandalous that we as an Island - and this is the case around certainly most of the western world - flush drinking water down the toilet on a daily basis. If housing developments were built with rain water harvesting, then there is no question that we could seriously reduce our consumption of clean and treated water. So, yes, build a reservoir but only if we change the standards of the housing developments that are being built in order to ensure that the amount of water being used per person is cut significantly. Again, I think from a planning perspective we need to try and empower Islanders to take control of housing within the Island to a greater extent than they are at the moment. That means offering alternative routes to development outside of the typical commercial developer route. So, again I am not sure if it is entirely within the Island Plan, but empowering people to get together in co-operatives to develop co-operative housing I think is one way that we can perhaps encourage the development of more affordable housing and housing where people buy into the actual projects themselves. They become lifelong communities because the people who live there have had a hand in building the houses, whether it is through procurement or you will see some projects around Europe where they have physically built those houses themselves. It is also important that we look at places, often areas such as Goose Green Marsh, where people have built on and it is becoming more and more seen as an area where development is permitted but, of course, it is an area that is significantly prone to flooding. I do feel that we need to look away from such areas. Not only is Goose Green Marsh an important smaller green lung in the relatively built up area, but we also need to look at matters and say: “No, this is an area which is prone to flooding. You cannot build there any more than you already have.” It is really important that this Island Plan is drafted in co-ordination with the Carbon Strategy and the Sustainable Transport Strategy, and that means that the idea that every development is built for car owners as the principal means of transport I think has to change. This is one of the risks with the Island Plan being created in this curtailed manner, is that it could end up being decoupled from the Carbon Strategy and Sustainable Transport Strategy and so create policy conflicts, and that is something we need to avoid. Just finishing off, a general plea is the Island Plan needs to look at the most efficient use of space in Jersey and that means using brown field sites. That means using glasshouse sites. It could be the case - I was discussing this with another States Member recently - where maybe you have to say: “Yes, you can build one or 2 houses on that glasshouse site if the rest is returned to agriculture” in order to make it financially viable, but this Island Plan needs to get to grips with the small pockets of brown field sites which are currently not used for any particular useful purpose. Jersey just does not have enough land to be able to let any small percentages of the land that we have just lie there fallow in terms of agriculture and fallow in terms of living space. We also, with that in mind, should I think use the Island Plan from an agricultural perspective to encourage the use of smallholdings and allotments. These enable people to play a much greater role in providing for themselves. They also give from a well-being perspective the opportunity for people, particularly in town or urban areas - including St. Clement and St. Saviour, quite rightly mentioned earlier - the opportunity to get out and to spend time essentially in the countryside, growing the food that they want to use, helping supply food to others. They foster senses of communities and so I think it would be very important to see those sorts of elements in the Island Plan to come. That is all from me, but I hope there are a few ideas in there which we will see taken forward.
Can I very briefly thank everybody who has got us to this situation today? It is a very difficult subject and an enormous amount of hard work, and I think it has been particularly well presented so I extend my appreciation. I also would like to comment on my fellow members of the Planning Committee, who have covered everything I wish to say. Deputy Labey’s passion for heritage must not go unnoticed, and also the Constable of Trinity. We were discussing the fact that I think we have approved something like 300, 400, 500 one and 2-bedroom flats in the north part of St. Helier but no consideration is given to where those people move on should they start having families in the one and 2-bedroom flats. Where are they going to the 3 and 4-beds, et cetera, that they might need to evolve to? I think we have to have some more joined-up thinking in that particular area, notwithstanding schools, et cetera, so I can only support that. Now I am going to move on to my favourite subject of the week, data, and I know Deputies Truscott, Pamplin and Gardiner brought that one up. We will not have the data available to make informed decisions for this particular Island Plan, albeit an interim Island Plan, but we must leave a provision to make sure we are collecting it for future plans so these can be analysed when used for informed decision making. We must not next time round hear the words “assumptions” or “evidence base not there.” In today’s world that really is unacceptable and we are going to have to invest heavily in there because the savings and making sure we are making the right decisions will be very clear downstream. I cannot go without mentioning the hospital. Senator Farnham has obviously outlaid all the challenges with planning we have, but one of the things I would just like to say is the hospital has to be number one criteria for the health of the Island for the next 60, 70, 80 years or however long it is going to be there. We have 107,000 now people in this Island that know that. They know that we need a hospital. It is imperative we have one. A bit tongue in cheek, but we have 107,000 people who do not want it next to them. I know Deputy Higgins mentioned N.I.M.B.Y.s. It has to go somewhere and compromises will have to be made. We really have to work together on that because otherwise we are going to go in a spiralling circle and it will end up going nowhere. Now, my favourite last subject I would like to mention is we have a plan to be carbon neutral by 2030 and on the other side of it we have something like 3,000 heritage properties in Jersey where you are not allowed double glazing and you are not allowed thermal boarding. I declare an interest; I am blessed to have one of those. However, the amount of money it costs to heat in the evening because the heat just goes straight out of those old, rattling casement windows is just … (1) I do not like it but (2) it is against the policy. So, can I please ask that we can consider having double glazing, albeit new hardwood double glazing, casement windows, which are almost impossible to tell the difference except from very close range, and also have the ability to have thermal boarding on the inside of some very old granite walls. Anyhow, that is all from me.
The Deputy Greffier of the States (in the Chair):
Thank you, Deputy. I think on the chat I wrote next that it was the Constable of St. Clement and I think that that is me misreading the Deputy Bailiff’s handwriting because I believe it should say the Constable of St. Ouen who is next on the list.
It is always a pleasure to be mistaken for the Constable of St. Clement. I will not take that comment any further than that. The first thing I would like to do is to comment on Senator Farnham’s statement on the hospital and to preface it by saying that I think he has done an admirable job and that the most important thing that has come out of this is that we have a process and the process allows us to be confident that the decisions that are being made follow a logical pathway and will, I am sure, arrive at a hospital building that we will all be proud of. I have to say as one who voted for not allowing development to take place on the People’s Park, I was one of the many people who were dismayed by seeing 2 parks on the site. I know they have to follow the process and I understand that those sites probably fit a lot of criteria, which is why they are there, but if we talk about the People’s Park, I think people need to be aware that the People’s Park is unique in the Island in that it is one of the few places that we can stage major events. There are a large number of them that take place during the course of the year, and if we were to lose that we would also probably lose those major events, which benefit thousands of Islanders during the course of the year. That also does not factor in the fact that during the course of a normal week or weekend an awful lot of people use that park for leisure from St. Helier. It is a very quiet and peaceful place to do that. So, it is going to be very difficult for me to find a way to not vote against that, as with St. Andrew’s Park, simply because of the benefit and pleasure they bring to an awful lot of people in this Island. Moving on, it is always a mistake, or at least I am finding out in my very short States career, to leave speaking in any debate towards the end because sure as eggs are eggs somebody will almost certainly stand up and steal all your best lines. Well, unfortunately in this case not only did my own Deputy do that, but also the Deputy of St. John followed him up and virtually took away all the speech that I had to make, but nevertheless I shall carry on. My Deputy made some very salient points about country Parishes and the fact that particularly in St. Ouen we have not had a new development for a long, long time there. It does have an effect on the community. I moved to the Parish in 1979 and a lot of people I know bought houses when the new communities went up around that time. Sadly, we are all starting to feel the effects of age and it is not doing the Parish community a great deal of good because we are beginning to run out of people, who either have retired and no longer have the energy to take up Parish activities or simply are just getting too old and are not that interested. We need new blood in the Parish. In response to Deputy Southern’s comment about towns full, I have a lot of sympathy with that. It is distressing to see the number of new small blocks of flats that have gone up in town. I remember the town when I arrived in Jersey in the 1960s and it had a lot of lovely old buildings, all of which seem to have disappeared or a large number of them seem to have disappeared. For me, that is a great shame because town did have a character which has slowly but surely ebbed away. I think one has to get to a stage where one says: “Yes, we need to satisfy the Island’s housing needs but we do need to start to look elsewhere.” I can say from St. Ouen’s point of view we are prepared to do our bit. I formed a committee in February under the Chairmanship of my ex-Chef de Police and we have engaged extensively with the Planning Department and have put forward 26 sites into the call for sites. We are aware that some of those sites are within the envelope of the village and could easily be developed, and we have a committee that is willing and able to work with the Planning Department to bring those sites forward. So, I put a challenge down. I was heartened to hear the Minister for the Environment’s comments because he seemed to be in favour of some Parish development. I think ourselves and St. John and other Parishes have done a lot of work to get to this stage. We understand we had a pandemic but we are still enthusiastic to get on and do our bit to help the Island’s housing needs, but that does come with a bit of a caveat, if I am honest. Some of the housing developments we have put up in recent years, the character of those housing developments does not fit comfortably with country Parishes. We have had what I would see as townhouses plonked into developments with very little land around them and really a bit of a carbuncle on the landscape. I think that does not do much for people’s faith in building in country Parishes when they see what goes up in the end. So, my final plea I think - and I will not keep everyone too long - is that if we are going to do countryside developments, for goodness sake, let us make sure they are tasteful and they fit into the environment within which they are situated. There is no excuse for putting up townhouses in the country. People are perfectly capable and able to design houses that fit nicely into the environment within which they are situated and it does not have to cost any more. It is just a question of imagination, in my view. So, as the Constable of St. Ouen, I would never support a development that I did not think fitted into the Parish as it is now, and I would make a plea that if we are going to do this, let us make sure it is appropriate for the area. Let us not forget, yes, it does satisfy an immediate housing need, but let us realise that these houses are going to be there for a long, long time and our children will have to look at them. Sometimes I think some of the developments that we have they are almost certain to look at and say: “For goodness sake, what on earth did we do there?” So let us spend some time thinking about the design and let us put some nice green areas in the middle of any developments we do. Let us make sure the houses fit into the countryside in which they are located and make sure that they are tasteful and look nice and, if necessary, take a little bit more land to do this. I think in summary what I would like to say is - and St. John and I know other country Parishes are working on this - we stand ready to do our bit. I do not think anyone wants to see green sites rezoned unnecessarily, but I think we have to accept that we have an expanding population. We also have people who are here now who need houses and, as Deputy Southern said, they cannot all be accommodated in St. Helier. It is just unrealistic. It is unrealistic from the point of view that St. Helier will run out of space and also it is unrealistic for the character of St. Helier. It needs to have its own character and if we just keep destroying them and putting up boxes of flats, in the end we will just be like any other conurbation in the U.K. St. Helier would lose its essence and its character, which to me would be a great shame. So, I urge the Minister for the Environment to engage with us - I know his team have - and I urge him to look at the country Parishes and include that in any immediate housing needs that he feels need to be satisfied. With that, I would also like to thank the Minister for the Environment for what I feel has been an excellent debate. There have been a lot of very interesting views expressed and I am sure he has picked up a lot out of it. I would just like to thank him and his team for it.
Well, it has been a really interesting debate and gone on much longer than we thought, which is good because it shows that we all have passion about this. As I alluded to before, I have been on the Planning Committee for 6 years now. Most recently, it is very marked and I think it is in the region of 900 flats that have been approved; Bath Street, for example, Gas Place, the Hotel de France development, the BOA Warehouse, just to mention a few. I was so pleased to hear all the St. Helier Deputies with such enthusiasm, and quite rightly, too, demanding the green space, demanding the infrastructure and all those things. I think it is so important because this is where people live, this is community, this is people’s lives, and I think it is so important that we get the trees, that we get the green spaces and all those things. I was so pleased to support Deputy Ward when he brought his Proposition to the Assembly for the Youth Centre. That should have been long ago in train and it took a Deputy to bring that forward again, and all credit to him for doing that. Yes, we have to build in heart and spirit and we have to build communities and I think that is so important. We have to look at the whole of St. Helier holistically, north, south, east and west. We have to build in the walking corridors, the cycle tracks, the trees, the greenery, et cetera. I think it is so important and I think that has to go forward in the Island Plan; so, so important. I was interested to hear Deputy Luce. I know he has been talking about higher buildings and we are not talking significantly higher, I think just marginally higher here and there. I am very conscious - I am so interested in planning and things like that - that we can end up with a table-top roofline in St. Helier, everything on one line, just punctuated occasionally by church steeples, et cetera. I think it is important, but very nicely done, just to break the table-top effect by just punctuating it with building slightly higher. I was in Gibraltar last summer, obviously a very small place but they have been building some flats close to the harbour there. They are an exceptionally good design. They are curved. They have some colour in them. They have good-sized balconies and they really are a credit. I think we should look around the world and have a look at different architecture just to try and inject something a little different in places where we can. It has been an honour to serve with Deputy Labey as our Chairman of the Planning Committee this term; great passion, as we both have, in fact the whole committee have, for our heritage building. It is all credit to the historic officer there. She is absolutely brilliant, such passion and such knowledge, and we try and support her as much as we can to the hilt, quite frankly. One of my first decisions on the Planning Committee - I think I have mentioned this before; I do not want to bore everybody with it - was the Pitt Street building, where we saved the Foot Buildings and a few of the historic buildings down there. Sadly, we had to lose a couple of the historic buildings. They were well past their sell-by date. They were literally walls and that was all that was remaining. So, to achieve such a good development - and I am sure everybody agrees that it has made such a difference around that area, the whole area - it has been rejuvenating in many instances. We have a great coffee shop there on the corner. We have a well-known artist who has a shop down that street. It really is good. But again recently we passed the Randalls site by Parade Gardens there and very sadly we have had to lose another historic building. I could tell that our planning officer was aggrieved by the fact that she had lost another one, the passion is such as that. We are all sad to see them go, but I think you have to bring a pragmatic view and a common-sense view. We did save a number of historic buildings on that site and, again, one had to fall. I think from the Island Plan point of view, one could argue is it fair for a developer to take on the full cost of restoring and maintaining an historic building. Maybe, and this is a suggestion just to throw into the mix, taxpayers’ money could be offered to support such buildings. I do not know, that is something that needs to be worked out, but it is a very disappointing thing to lose something historic. I am going to go on to St. Brelade’s Bay. I am obviously passionate; it is in my Parish. I grew up on the bay. My grandparents had Midbay Stores. They were there when the Germans were building the sea defences, or the antitank wall rather than the sea defences, but it kept the sea out as well. So we go back a long way in the bay and, let us face it, it has been voted I think the third most beautiful beach in the British Isles. Consistently, it has been recognised as a bay of beauty. For me and I think John Young and the St. Brelade Bay Association, all St. Brelade residents, we are very passionately trying to protect the essence of St. Brelade’s Bay. We do not want to freeze it in time but we just want to maintain that very special characteristic of the bay. I am just feeling, if again John could take this on board, I would like to come in and have a discussion with him some time. If we could just put possibly another layer in there of scrutiny of any plans that are coming through or give the area a different classification, I do not know, but it is work that needs to be done specifically on the bay and other places like it, St. Aubin typically being another example.
I have been in St. Brelade - just while I am still in the bay and just looking at my notes - and it is all about headland development as well. I am sure there are a number of people that if you look up now on the headland around St. Brelade’s Bay, around Noirmont, you have some very large properties that have just popped up on the headland. Now, a lot of these properties had never come through to the Planning Committee. They have come through the normal planning process - I believe it is called the “4 eyes on” process at Planning - and they do, for all intents and purposes, meet the criteria of the existing, current Island Plan. I am not in any way casting aspersions; it has passed due process. But I do feel that there should be perhaps another mechanism put in place where if a building increases in size by X amount that a special subcommittee of the Planning Committee, perhaps made up of members of the public, should look at those plans just to see if they are appropriate going through. I have lived in St. Brelade pretty much all of my life. I spent 20 years in St. Helier, just behind St. Andrew’s Park, coincidentally. It is not going to happen in the park there, rest assured. I will have a comment on the 5 sites at the end of my speech. I had a wonderful time there. It was close to my work and the kids used to play in the park. It is a wonderful little green space in that area. I used to go out early in the morning, and this just shows you just how big it is. I had a 7-iron in my hands and chipped a bucket of balls across the yard, so it is about 150 yards wide in the green area. I am just surprised it has even gone forward as a site, and the fact that it has a dolmen in the middle of it is another reason. Going back to St. Brelade, I have lived in the Parish most of my life, other than that wonderful time in St. Helier, and I have been there since the early 1960s. You would never know it, would you, but yes, I have. I can remember when from Red Houses to the airport, on the left-hand side going up towards the airport, there was a bungalow just at Don Farm. There was Belle Vue Pleasure Park and that was it. I think we can all see as we drive down the airport road now that there is nothing left. Les Quennevais School, which is a wonderful structure that has just gone up, we have sacrificed pretty much our last greenfield along that road. That just has to show how over the decades the pressure on the Parish of St. Brelade in particular has been enormous and we have taken a lot of it on ourselves. Which brings me to my next point, which I do feel that the other Parishes, all other Parishes … and I will mention St. Clement in a minute, Constable Norman, because I do believe you also, your Parish, has taken a significant brunt of urban sprawl over the years. In fact, when I saw you at the Samarès planning application appeal, it was a wry smile because I think you were pretty much saying that it is your last field as well that seemed to be going, so I have a great of sympathy with you on this one.
The Deputy Bailiff:
Through the Chair, Deputy, through the Chair.
Deputy G.J. Truscott:
Sorry, Sir, I do apologise, just getting emotionally carried away there. I do believe the other Parishes should take a degree of strain. It should not all be about St. Helier. There is no reason why they cannot build in a Jersey vernacular. They should try and develop the village theme, but just build properties that people can be proud of, that give an idea of community, put that soul and community into the Parish villages. I will just quickly whiz through my notes. I am nearly there, I am sure you are all pleased to hear. I just wanted to thank the Minister. I think this has been invaluable and I think it is important that all Members are given the opportunity now to work up their ideas, to go and see and talk to the officers and get their ideas in, which will make the eventual debate so much smoother. I think that is so important, but this is good. My final parting is on the 5 hospital sites. I was having a conversation with a parishioner at the Parish Hall meeting the other night, and we likened the 5 sites to racehorses. It was consisting of 4 no-hopers and a thoroughbred, but I will just leave that for Members to work out.
You caught me on the hop there a little bit, I have to admit, but I am just about ready. I want to applaud Deputy Young for bringing forward an interim plan, a Bridging Plan, partly in response to COVID-19, because I think it does give us time to assess where the Island is economically and socially and in other areas. But I believe it is important that any policy that is going to be introduced into a bridging plan is evidence-based, and I just wanted to talk briefly - and this is going to be a very brief speech - about the sports facility strategy that is currently being developed and how I feel it is important that it is included within any Bridging Plan. In terms of spatial strategy, I think it is really important that we set out in any new Bridging Plan where new developments should be considered, certainly in the short to medium term. Creating sustainable and thriving communities requires careful consideration of what infrastructure is going to be required in future years to support both the physical and mental well-being of Islanders, with obviously St. Helier acquiring the necessary support if it is going to deliver the further housing development that many of us see being part of providing the necessary housing that the Island needs. I am not going to repeat what others have said about providing good open space, playgrounds and areas for people to relax and enjoy themselves in, but it is going to be a vital part of St. Helier. I think the sports facility strategy and some of what we are going to do around our facilities in and around St. Helier will add to that, not take away. For me, this Bbridging Island Plan must seriously consider commitments given both in the Strategic Plan and the Government Plan to improving health outcomes for all Islanders - and I think everybody would expect me to say that - irrespective of age or gender. The recently implemented health and well-being framework I think was clear in its purpose of providing a systematic and a collaborative approach that increases Government’s focus on prevention and early intervention to reduce the risk and impact of preventable diseases and improve quality of life for all Islanders. Any new Island Plan, be it long term or shorter as this one will be in nature, should have at its heart the aim of improving the well-being of Islanders, be it environmentally, economically or within our community. The development of a long-term sports facility strategy has taken time to develop and I am proud of the work that has been done to date. I am very keen to share that with States Members before too long but, as I say, it has taken time to develop. It has to consider the needs of all Islanders, be they our talented athletes or simply those that just want to keep fit and active to enjoy their lives. Dealing with a desperate lack of investment within our public sports facilities such as we have seen at Fort Regent and are now beginning to see at Les Quennevais Sports Centre and, in fact, all our centres means that action and planning cannot wait until the development of a new 10-year Island Plan in 2022-2024. There needs to be the provision within the shorter-term plan to allow this strategy to kick start and plan the necessary infrastructure well before 2024. Failure to do so will undoubtedly lead I think to further delay in our sports facilities portfolio and an undoubted increase in the cost of both refurbishing the current facilities or developing new facilities. Although yet to be finally approved, this strategy will identify sites both current and new and all these sites need to be designated for the delivery of sports facilities and clear criteria provided for the process of delivering such facilities on these sites. The Minister stated within his in-committee debate report that the Island Plan needs to make provision for community needs over any plan period. The same must apply to a Bridging Island Plan period and specifically providing facilities to support the physical and mental well-being of all Islanders. So, I would, therefore, ask that full consideration is given by the Minister to include the planning and delivery of the sports facility strategy within the Island Bridging Plan. Clearly, this particular strategy will last a lot longer than this 2022-2024 period but, nevertheless, we do need to begin that process. I only really have 2 issues that I want to bring up and this is a more minor one. I think the delivery of a good sports facilities portfolio is key to all Islanders’ well-being, but another area which has been highlighted to me by a parishioner, and something that I think is really important to Island life and needs to be more important to Island life, is allotments. I think a lot of people will know the allotment movement in the U.K. is very much on the increase, and just quoting from an allotment strategy in Cardiff: “In the past, the dominant role of allotments was to provide land for local people to grow inexpensive fresh fruit and vegetables. Although this is still an important role, particularly in urban areas, allotments are increasingly fulfilling a wider role in the community, particularly with regard to health, recreation and social opportunities.” I know Jersey has understandably experienced considerable pressure on land for housing stock, which to remain affordable has increasingly relegated gardens to a token gesture. Therefore, while the growing of vegetables is on the increase, it is limited mainly to those with sufficient garden space. We do have within the current Island Plan criteria around providing allotment areas and there are minimum standards and criteria provided, but having reviewed them and spoken to a couple of people that are very close to the allotment community within the Island, those minimum standards have almost now been set in stone. I think it is becoming increasingly difficult with the Planning Department to provide sites without having to jump through hoops and over hurdles to be able to achieve what should be something that is quite simple to achieve. There are various problems that have been encountered in recent times, but if we really are going to offer people the opportunity to make the most of their recreational time and, with that, improve not just their physical health but their social health and the opportunity to improve their mental health as well, I think we need to consider making allotment sites more easy to get through the planning process. I will pick just one, for example, where currently allotment sites: “… must not occupy prime agricultural or commercially valuable farming land.” Well, I think most of us would tend to agree with that but “prime” has been interpreted now as any agricultural or commercially valuable farming land. I think that has made it extremely difficult to get even small portions of land through the planning process to provide allotment areas for local people. As I said, I think there needs to be better understanding of the wider benefits of allotments and we do need to relax the strict criteria for permission. In terms of numbers, since the start of this pandemic the local allotment associations received applications from another 50 Islanders wanting allotments, on top of the 400-plus that are already registered. That is a lot of people looking to find somewhere to garden, find somewhere where they can find new friends, find new activities to do, and also grow their own food, which is something that I think sometimes we underestimate in the Island. I think we have seen through COVID-19 that gardening has been one group activity that is not only safe but it is therapeutic, being beneficial both in terms of physical and mental well-being, as I say, and frankly it has really thrived. Some may think this is a minor point and it is to some degree, but I think there are some simple changes we could make in the Island Plan or the Bridging Island Plan to provide more allotments around the Island. I would like to see an allotment area in every single Parish so that people do have the opportunity to garden for themselves or maybe for their children and their grandchildren or do it together.
I think it is a really important part - could be, should be a really important part - of Island life. The one other area I am going to touch on, and I am only going to touch on it very briefly, is mental health and the mental health estate. Whatever happens with the hospital - and I know we spoke about it this week in questions - is the importance of co-locating the physical side of the hospital with the mental health side. I know Deputy Pamplin has brought it up several times this week around parity of esteem and I absolutely applaud him for doing that, but it is something that cannot be forgotten, should not be forgotten and cannot be second best. It has to be our priority to make sure that whatever hospital we provide we absolutely make sure we get the best possible mental health facility within that. I am going to say now I have been frustrated with the time it has taken and the time it is still taking to get a new mental health facility built at Clinique Pinel. I am not going to blame just the planning process because I think there have been other issues as well, but we need to deliver that quickly now. If there are ways that the planning process can be improved, certainly the by-laws/permit side, I would ask the Minister to look at that, especially on really important pieces of infrastructure. We should not be delaying in any way something like a mental health facility, which is life changing for some people. I think I am going to finish there because I know other people want to speak and it is getting later in the day, but I thank Members for listening.
The Deputy Bailiff:
Deputy of St. Martin, you have spoken before but you said you wanted to make a brief additional comment.
I will be brief. If I could very quickly just concur with Senator Pallett: mental health facilities are going to have to be an absolute priority for us. We must do everything we can. We do not do well enough at the moment. Allotments, absolutely, I quite agree. I think we should be reducing the restrictions, the list of things we make people jump through in order to start allotments. They are so beneficial to Islanders, especially older Islanders and younger ones as well. We have allotments at our Parish school; really, really successful. I wanted to talk very, very briefly about sightlines and public views and the perception of living. I just wanted to mention ribbon development. Over the years successive Island Plans have been hugely successful in not allowing ribbon development to happen on the Island as is done in other places not too far away from us. The perception of living in the countryside or being in the countryside, visiting the countryside, is very different if you have no ribbon development. What I wanted to say to people who have said they do not want any more building in town was the countryside does want to take more houses, we can take more houses, and there are ways to do it. There are ways to build numbers of houses, of units, away from roads, out of sight, where people will not know they are there. There are other ways of building much smaller numbers of units alongside the road, where the perception of driving, the perception of visiting, is completely different. We really must make a big effort to build these countryside units, these extra units that Parishes want to build, in places where they are not seen or seen very little because we can do a lot more in the countryside. The feeling would change hardly at all if we think smart and clever about how we do these things. I finish with this. The Deputy of St. Mary raised the issue about the community infrastructure levy, and I would very much urge the Minister to get this back on the table. It was greatly opposed by the construction industry. That does not mean to say it is something we should not be doing. I fought them tooth and nail and I would continue to do so. The benefit of the community infrastructure levy will be that we could take money from developments out in the countryside, large/small developments, luxury developments, and use that money for community projects within St. Helier. That is the whole idea of the community infrastructure levy. The money that would come from that from various Parishes all around the Island could be used for the green, the open, the amenity spaces for those parts of the north of St. Helier where we want to increase the number of people who live there but we know we have to give greater amenity space, green areas. The youth facility that Deputy Ward so rightly has argued and fought for and got in the north, that could be funded out from a community infrastructure levy as well. So, I urge the Minister. I can see nothing but benefit in the community infrastructure levy, which means that monies from one part of the Island can be used in other parts of the Island for the benefit of the community. I will leave it there.
Sorry about the confusion. It is difficult to follow. I needed to pop out, as I said, but thank you for bringing me back in. So, it has been quite a wide-ranging and I think a good quality of debate so far, and I also welcome the debate and thank the Minister and the officers for putting it together. I suppose the first question that I would ask is: what level of intervention do we have an appetite for as a Government and Assembly in the Island Plan? Listening to some of the comments already, I think there is a recognition that whatever our normal politics might be or our political outlook, the nature of an Island Plan - if we are to try and meet all the needs that a modern society requires but also to protect the Island in many ways, to keep it green, to keep it safe and to house the population adequately - clearly needs a robust framework to do that. So, it is really critical, especially if we are having a scaled-down timeline for the plan, that we do it properly. I am sure population has been mentioned already but I do not think we can get away from that. If I was to say something tongue in cheek, which is always risky nowadays, it is that presumably the population, the Jersey people, want the population to increase exponentially because they keep on voting for Governments which either do that or which do nothing to stop a burgeoning population. Clearly, it has been mentioned many times before that something has to give. You cannot keep all of your green zones and the countryside absolutely pristine and also not put development in town. Something has to give. You either accept that you are going to build in town and protect the countryside, at which point you need to start building up and you need to start building quality apartments effectively, but which are affordable as well, not just luxury apartments but ones that people can live in, or you accept that there is going to be some encroachment into the green zones. I am really pleased that there was talk from, I think, Deputy Morel - who, even though sometimes we disagree, I think in a lot of ways we see things in the same way when it comes to these kind of environmental and perhaps even heritage issues - that it really is to do with the efficient use of land. Before we build any more properties, I think what we need to do - and it was recognised by a Scrutiny Panel report - is that we need to tackle empty properties. It is completely inefficient, whether it is commercial or primarily I am more concerned with housing, to have empty properties lying around the Island for whatever reason. It is not the reason that properties are left empty that is important, it is the fact that they are left empty. Our Scrutiny Panel at the time identified that even if you just took a proportion of those properties and put them back into the market, it would severely restrict the number of new properties and the encroachment into the countryside that you need to do because you are building more properties. So, we really have to get to grips with that and if it means we do that through taxation or through the rates system, we really need to get to grips with that. The other point that has been talked about on allotments is that - and this segues into a section on food sustainability and food security - I spent a lot of time walking around the countryside during COVID to get my 2 hours of exercise, especially early on, and the number of glasshouse sites and greenhouses which are lying derelict is an absolute travesty. I am not one of those people who thinks that we should allow them to develop these for housing and I have heard it being said in the past: “Oh, maybe one or 2 houses to allow them to fund the redevelopment of those areas.” No, I think we should be very strict when it comes to glasshouse areas and other agricultural land which has fallen into disrepair. As I understand it, there is already power for the Minister for the Environment and the Environment Department to make directives for those places to be put up to scratch. It is not just for glasshouses but any derelict properties they can be asked to be repaired, especially if they are a danger, which glasshouses clearly should be. I think we should say to the owners of those glasshouse sites you have a period of time, let us call it a year, by which you either need to put those back into use so that we are creating jobs and that we are growing food preferably for our own Islanders to eat or to export, or we are going to compulsorily purchase them off you at an agricultural price. We could consider putting allotments in those areas. If you imagine how many allotments you can get into one of those big glasshouse sites, and you could even put some greenhouses on there as well for people who are in small properties so they can get that quality of life as well. Nothing better than growing your own food. We need to look at strong regulation and directives, so carrots and sticks, to make sure that people put solar panels on their roof. I think the States should lead by example so that all States buildings where it is possible should automatically have solar panels and all new buildings going forward - I hate the saying “going forward” so I will say all new buildings in the future - should have solar panels and we should consider things like micro renewables and small wind turbines, which do not necessarily create an eyesore but which are effective. I think the only small wind turbine I have seen is somewhere up in St. Martin near the Beuvelande campsite. Others will know exactly what I am talking about there. So, food security is absolutely critical. When we are talking about affordable housing, I have often asked the question: why do we not build affordable housing only? We hear this election after election that people are saying we need more affordable housing. How about we only build affordable housing, or certainly on new sites if a developer comes along, let us forget about this stupid 30:70 split where we say 30 per cent has to be affordable housing - which is not necessarily affordable anyway because it is all relative - and 70 per cent has to be unaffordable. So, I reiterate: anything that is not affordable housing must be unaffordable housing and we should not be encouraging the building of unaffordable housing. I also think it is imperative that any shared equity schemes or any affordable housing schemes are properly ring-fenced. We had an interesting example in St. Brelade at our rates meeting whereby there was a £90,000 bond in a property, and I think that property was then sold into the private market and there was £115,000 coming back into Parish coffers. You could say that is great, the Parish has made £25,000 and they have helped somebody buy a house which was affordable, but that house is now no longer in the scheme. So you have one house of affordable housing that has left the scheme for ever and the net gain is that the Parish has made £25,000 over a few years and they have helped one person buy a house. I think we have to be much more innovative about these shared equity schemes and affordable housing. I know thankfully other schemes have taken that on board now. We have also spent the last 50 years building our society around the private automobile, and I think the next 30 or 50 years need to do the opposite. We need to very much build our built environment and the infrastructure around pedestrians and around bicycles and around electric vehicles, hopefully. One way to do that I think is through the efficient use of carpools and also the EVie bikes. I really congratulate the company that has been running EVie for electric cars, electric vans and bicycles. It has been particularly great to see so many electric bikes, EVie bikes, around the Island. They have little hubs. I think if we extended that for cars, then if we do end up building in the countryside … and I do not advocate that and I certainly will always contest any inappropriate building in my constituency. That is not N.I.M.B.Y.ism, but any building has to be warranted and appropriate. But those kinds of hubs for just getting a car when you need it for the hour or for the 2 hours has to be a much more efficient use of space and also better for the environment. I need to talk about cultural assets quickly. I would value Members’ input, not necessarily now but in the future when we put this together. I ask the question: where do we want to pitch Jersey’s ambition for becoming a truly cultural Island in all of its aspects? We have the “blue sky” thinking and there has been talk for decades about Jersey having a National Gallery. I did not particularly like the term “National Gallery” because I think it has many negative connotations but I think I understand what that means.
It means that there can be a public space somewhere in the Island which is purpose-built to hang the many historical and valuable paintings that we may already have in the Island but to give our young people in particular, and those who cannot leave the Island for affordability reasons, the ability to view internationally famous paintings on their doorstep. Part of my remit as Assistant Minister for Economic Development, Tourism, Sport and Culture will be to try to increase the accessibility and inclusion within all aspects of culture and the arts. We have to decide to what extent we want to invest in that, whether it is going to be publicly funded or whether it is going to be private or a mixture notwithstanding the difficulties there will be elsewhere to do it publicly and privately. We know that there is an uplift in the cultural funding and that there is I think a renewed appetite and commitment in this Assembly for that. Lastly, I want to turn to St. Brelade and my constituency in Les Quennevais. We have some very good examples of what I would call slightly interventionist systems which have worked well so if we look at the central market, that is a well-established and well-appreciated asset not just for town but for the whole of the Island and for indeed those who come to visit the Island as tourists. It has longevity because it is affordable essentially and it is well-established. We know that some of the stallholders there and the businesses are coming and going but, generally, they are well-established and they know that they have security because they can afford to pay their rents. We could transfer that to somewhere like Les Quennevais Parade, which has seen a lot of development. I think Deputy Truscott mentioned the fact that this was all sand dunes decades ago before my parents moved up there when it was first built in the 1960s and 1970s. It is probably inconceivable today that we would consider building on sand dunes which are now an S.S.I. (Site of Special Interest) but that is the way Jersey burgeoned of course and it has grown. We have a problem up there because the Les Quennevais Parade, if we did want to develop it, is in such multiple ownership. You have shops, you have some flats which are owned privately, you have some flats which are owned and then rented out and you have other flats which are owned by investment companies. It is a really difficult and thorny issue to try to extricate that even if we did have some kind of master plan that we wanted to do for the area. We do have a great opportunity when it comes to the old Les Quennevais School site and I think the temptation from some will be just to put as many houses as possible you can on that space and to get as much money back into Treasury coffers if the idea is for it to be sold off. I would warn against that, not just because it is in my constituency, but because I do not think that is the best use for the site. I think we have an opportunity to be really innovative when it comes to the old Les Quennevais School site - and this may echo for other sites going on around the Island - to build in some of the best we have seen from the other villages. I think St. John’s Village is quite a good example because you have well-established shops there built around the community. Why do we have 2 garages that have been built? There is a new garage which has just been built next to another garage on the cusp between St. Brelade and St. Peter close to Falles next to the airport. Why is that? Is it because we just allow a completely free market system to go in? It seems to me that we need to start planning better. We have so many petrol stations in the Island already, all of them with small supermarkets inside and at a time when we are looking at climate change and reducing our dependence on fossil fuels. We really need to be looking at those kinds of things. While I am quite libertarian in some ways and I think it is absolutely right that people do what they can with their own properties, I think it absolutely right that the Island Plan does seek to enforce strict parameters about what kind of land usage we want to see where. I am summing-up now. The issue that I mentioned in St. Brelade and Les Quennevais is a kind of jigsaw puzzle so until we know what is going perhaps on the old Les Quennevais School site, we might not know what we want to do. We might want to move, for example, the Parish administration up there and it would free up the Parish Hall for some other use. To a much wider extent, that is the case throughout the whole of the Island. We do not know what we are doing with Fort Regent, whether that is going to be developed for X, Y or Z or what is going on with the Highland site, whether that is going to stop being a college and could become housing. There has been talk about a university going to Fort Regent. There is talk about a swimming pool and about that kind of infrastructure. I am slightly disappointed that these conversations have not happened much earlier with a wider cross-section of States Members and other stakeholders in the community so we can start piecing that jigsaw together. We clearly have a lot of work to do on this. I think we do need to be bold and we do have to start putting people’s mental health and their quality of lives at the very centre of this next Island Plan.
Firstly, may I chastise the Minister publicly, as I have done privately, about page 19 of the very helpful document that he sent out? Page 19 includes a matter being the one of the town of St. Helier. The problem with that matter is that it includes part of St. Saviour but, even worse, the western part of St. Clement. That is most unfortunate because the residents of that part of St. Clement are residents of God’s own Parish and not residents of the town of St. Helier. Having chastised, may I apologise to the Minister because I have had to dip in and out of this meeting, particularly this morning. One of the reasons I had to dip out was I attended the Royal Court where I was very pleased to witness you swearing in not only 2 St. Clement Honorary Police officers but also 9 new States of Jersey Police officers and I wish them well in their careers and welcome them to the States of Jersey Police. The main reason that I have asked to speak is to plead - as Deputy Truscott pleaded for St. Brelade - for St. Clement. I have written to the Minister and his team requesting that no site outside of the built-up zone in the Parish of St. Clement is considered for any form of development in the forthcoming plan. I say this because it is not often recognised that St. Clement is Jersey’s smallest Parish by a long way. It is some 50 per cent smaller than St. Mary in land area but, on the other hand, it is home to nearly 10 per cent - probably more than that now because it says it was nearly 10 years ago - of the population. It has a population density second only to the Parish of St. Helier despite being, as I say, by a long way the smallest Parish. Now this I think proves my assertion that St. Clement has done more than its fair share in housing the local population and it should be of no surprise and no wonder that we wish to resist any further significant development. I am reminded what Deputy Tadier had to say about derelict glasshouses because it is inevitable that some sites in the green zone will be offered to planning for development and this will mainly be because of the extraordinary uplift in value that the owner will receive if fields or glasshouses sites are zoned for housing development often for a few thousand pounds to many millions. We have seen it all before. While there is hope that these sites will be rezoned, it is very tempting to neglect fields and let them overgrow or let glasshouses go derelict in the hope that they will be rezoned and people will become millionaires overnight after an Island Plan debate. I think it was the Deputy of St. Mary who raised this earlier but it is an important factor, particularly when the world needs to increase its food production. We have the ability to increase food production in the Island but we are not doing so in the way that we should because of the hope value of these sites being developed for housing when they could be developed for agriculture or horticulture. I am not going to say much more but I would point out a few things about St. Clement. Currently, there are 3 major building estates which are coming online: 200 homes at Samarès Nursery, something like 140 at Le Squez and some 50 at the top of La Hocq Lane, all using the St. Clement inner road which is already saturated at peak times. Despite giving permission for all these homes, when you think about it, even if it is 3 per household, that is going to be an increase of 10 per cent in our population in almost one fell swoop and I look forward to welcoming them. Nevertheless, despite nearly 400 new homes, there are no additional social facilities, no additional community facilities and no additional recreational facilities. Just the new homes. St. Clement has been treated, I have to say, appallingly by successive planning regimes and I say we just cannot take anymore, so no more please, Minister. I think it was Deputy Tadier who mentioned that there is something like 3,000 homes empty at any one time. That was proven in the last census and I do not think it will be any different now but we will be told that most of those are empty for legitimate reasons; people moving house, people on holiday, people in hospital and so on. That is absolutely right but think about it. If we could even harness 10 per cent of those 3,000, that would save many green fields. That is all I wanted to say but, please, no more in St. Clement. Thank you.
I was hoping to be brief. I have just made a few bullet points, having listened to the very long debate. I must apologise, Sir. I know that the reception in the Parish Hall is not good and I may dip in and out which is what has been happening to me today listening to the debate, so I apologise in advance if I do disappear. It is important, I think, that Members do not think that we in the country Parishes are jealously guarding every green field in our Parishes. I began to get the impression earlier when some St. Helier Deputies were speaking that that was what they think of us but I am beginning to change my mind on that as I have heard other people speak. Of course, we are not doing that. We are all, as Members, there to protect the environment in a number of different ways. I agree with what Deputy Luce said earlier, which is that there is room for development with Parishes other than St. Helier, notwithstanding what we have just heard from the Constable of St. Clement who is saying very loudly: “No development.” I think that is the message I got from him. There is indeed the opportunity for development to take place in other Parishes. I know that some Constables have spoken about the consultations that they have had with parishioners to identify the housing need in their particular Parish and that is what we, in St. Lawrence, are doing now. We are undertaking consultation and asking parishioners to let us know what sort of housing they require, be that over-55s, first-time buyer or social housing. That is in recognition of the need for us to identify the all-Island housing need, not just what is needed or wanted by the parishioners of St. Lawrence but it is so that we can feed into the identification of an all-Island housing need. We are also doing that because a number of landowners have come to me to say: “If I submit my green field here and my other green field there to the Island Plan for consideration for development, will you support it?” My reply to landowners in 2019 and 2020 was the same as it was in 2010 and 2011 when we were considering the last Island Plan, which was that everyone has the right to submit their land for consideration and, ultimately, the States will decide upon any changes to designation.
That is quite clear. It is the States that will make the decision on everything within the Island Plan. I want to touch very briefly on the sites that have been selected for the hospital shortlist and, if I understood him correctly, it was heartening to hear from Senator Farnham that the decision on the hospital site will be made under the current Island Plan. Of course, if that is the case, then the 3 areas of parkland and open space that should not be on the shortlist of 5 - Millbrook, St. Andrews and People’s Park - cannot for a moment be politically considered as viable for development, notwithstanding of course the alternative view of the Citizens’ Panel who have put those 3 sites on the shortlist. I agree with the Deputy of St. Peter that the hospital has to go somewhere. That is a statement that is so obvious but if we disregard the current Island Plan policies, what is the point in having an Island Plan and associated policies? Why did we, in 2010 and 2011, spend hours and hours and hours of consultation before the debate and hours during the debate in deciding and agreeing upon an Island Plan if we disregard the policies within that plan? As the Parish with the most reservoirs, I agree with Deputy Luce that water and its provision to us is of paramount importance. I was really pleased to hear him raise that issue and I think he was the first Member to do so. I also agree with Deputy Luce in his assertion that we need to build upwards, albeit that that does not mean to the detriment of surrounding areas and that of course is a difficult circle to square and I know other Members have said: “Let us build up.” One thing that does need to be brought within the remit of the Island Plan is that of road surfaces and I say that because when the Parish was undergoing the changes to the main road outside the Parish Hall and the church and I think it was probably back in about 2014, we worked with T.T.S. (Transport and Technical Services) then to undertake consultation with parishioners. What did they want? Did they want reduced speed limits in the area? Did they want pavements? Where did they want parking, if they wanted parking? Did they want traffic lights? Did they want pelican crossings, et cetera? We worked really closely with them and we ended up with a magnificent off-road parking area, the Moignard Liberation Garden, which has matured and is coming into its own. I must say here that we have a photographic exhibition in there at the moment and I urge all Members to go and look at it. It is “Life in St. Lawrence During the Occupation”. Coming back to the debate, one thing that did jar with me during that process was that it was agreed that we should put cobblestones outside the Parish church. We have 2 entrances to the church on the main road and it sounded marvellous. We were going to put cobblestones there to be absolutely in keeping with the church which has been described as the “cathedral of the Island”. Unfortunately, due to, I would think, overspends in other Parishes when their village plans were being implemented, T.T.S. could not afford to pay for original cobblestones. We ended up with a very unpleasant imprinted cobble surface material which, if it had been referred to the Planning Department for permission, would have been thrown out immediately because it is absolutely not in keeping with the Grade 1 listed building of the Parish church and the Grade 2 listed building of the Parish Hall. It is so poor that it needs to be replaced and I am negotiating with the department now to replace it with an appropriate material. It shows that you get what you pay for and the department, by going for the cheapest option at the time, is going to incur costs in the longer term. Senator Pallett mentioned allotments and I wanted to touch on that for the reasons of health and well-being, particularly at this time. I had a really bad experience with the Planning Department some years ago when I was offered a field for the provision of allotments within the Parishes. I held a public meeting and there was an overwhelming demand for allotments in the Parish and everyone was absolutely delighted that a field had been offered to us. When I approached the Planning Department, there were so many barriers and problems to using the field. So many that we all just gave up. We were in despair and it is not a joke to say that it probably affected the well-being of all of us who were involved with the experience of trying to provide allotments and, at the end of it, I never wanted to hear the word “allotments” again. I would hope that, within this Island Plan, we could reduce some of those really severe restrictions about allotments. Let us relax them. They are far too prohibitive. The building environment is important and I have mentioned listed buildings. The difficulty with listed buildings continues to be the pressure on owners to maintain them to the high levels needed. We know that wooden windows must be replaced with wooden windows. Until there is some assistance from Government, many of those listed buildings will continue to deteriorate so I call upon Government to provide some assistance to the owners of listed buildings as was provided some years ago. Coming back to the matter of development within the country Parishes, I have said I acknowledge that there is room for development. We are not jealously guarding every single area of our Parishes. The Chief Minister will remember that, in 2011, we fought within the Chamber and within the debate to protect the Thistlegrove area in St. Lawrence from becoming another light industrial development similar to what we find now at Rue des Pres. I think the main reason that we argued against it was the generation of far more traffic along La Grande Route de St. Laurent down Mont Felard, which is a dodgy road at the best of times. I am not sure that I would argue against that area being used for the provision of other commercial development. I recall that following the rejection of the site as a light industrial estate, there was an application to build some buildings there to allow for data storage which would have generated far less traffic movement than the light industrial estate. I cannot really remember why that did not go ahead but it seems to me that that is the sort of thing that could be put somewhere in the countryside but I know it was rejected at the time. We know that the law identifies that all development should be in accordance with the Island Plan unless there is sufficient justification for granting planning permission that is inconsistent with the plan. I think that, ultimately, what we, as an Assembly, should be doing is striving for an Island Plan that covers all eventualities and I believe that, since 2011, those eventualities have come to the fore. They should be taken into account now so that every time permission is given for a development that does not comply or is inconsistent with the planning policies within the plan, we are making an error there. To my mind, there can be no excuse for us delivering an Island Plan that has loopholes within it which allows justifying the granting of planning permission that is inconsistent with the plan. It brings me back to what I said a moment ago. What is the point in having an Island Plan if we do not adhere to its policies? Thank you.
The Deputy Bailiff:
Thank you. Senator Ferguson. Perhaps we will come back to you, Senator Ferguson, in due course.
I was not intending to speak because I wanted to hear other Members’ views around the Island Plan. I have had the fortune or, as some may say, misfortune of experiencing the Island Plan debate 10 years ago - over 2 weeks of discussions and a number of amendments - and I think this in-committee debate allows us to have an appropriate and proportionate discussion around our expectations as representatives of the Island of what we expect in terms of the Island Plan going forward. I have had the opportunity to experience being a Deputy in both an urban area and within the countryside and now my constituency is basically the whole Island. I recognise some of the difficulties in discussions that I have heard today, the conversations we need to have as a whole Island and being respectful of each other to ensure that we get things right to aspire to a future that is good enough for everyone and not just a few. I would to talk to areas in this particular case of education and the Youth Service and I have had comments and I have had emails around the amendment or the Common Strategic Policy that was agreed by the States Assembly in terms of the Youth Service having an appropriate facility for the north of town area.
I would just like to make it very clear now - and I want to make it absolutely clear now - there is no expectation from myself that that will be delayed. There has been some delay because of COVID-19 but the importance and the recognition of the amount of people in St. Helier, because of the requirement to build more in St. Helier, is of course the demand on the likes of our Youth Service, who do an absolutely fantastic job in terms of supporting not just our children, our families, our teachers and us as a community in order to ensure not only in terms of preventing youth offences but supporting them in terms of mental health and young carer support and the many other things that they are expected to do even though they are not a statutory service at the moment. This brings me on to the importance of the Population Policy and the argument for concentrating in St. Helier. I want to make this point around recognising if we were to concentrate the majority of our population in St. Helier this has ramifications in other areas; and of course that means a need for school places. I thank the Constable of Trinity for recognising that education is not necessarily consulted in terms of contributing to the discussions around planning applications in terms of what housing developments may go on in terms of families and children that will be in that area. One of the really, really important things around our community and us as social beings is the fact that schools play a really significant part in terms of their community and the way that they revolve around their community. This leads me on to the question and the concern I have always had, and I have raised it regularly - and I may not be popular for raising this and I may be seen as a troublemaker for raising this - but when we talk about efficiency programmes, if you wanted a really slick, efficient education system you would look at closing down country schools in order to provide a more efficient education system. That is something I as Minister for Education am not prepared to do because schools play a vital role in the community in each of our Parishes. They are really important in terms of values, understanding, working together, growing up and understanding how the community around them evolves and what they learn from that. So I have never and I will never be in support of closing down those types of schools because that is the uniqueness of our Island, and I am really grateful for the Island that I have grown up in. I have to give special thanks to the likes of St. Clement, St. Brelade, St. Saviour in particular, and St. Helier for taking on the challenge of children’s needs in terms of education. That is not just from a primary point of view but particularly around the secondary and further education offerings that we have in our Island. This comes back to the importance of the Island Plan and how all these other policies play into this Island Plan, because the larger proportion of children attending a selective education in our Island that many other countries do not necessarily see has an impact on the likes of traffic and consideration for widening needs and choice in education for a fulfilled future. Of course you are having to look at potential needs of expanding some of these sites, whether that is a fee-paying school or whether that is a non-fee-paying school, but we know some of our non-fee-paying schools, particularly in St. Helier, do not have access to outdoor green space, which is really disappointing. I think it needs to be resolved and I think this is something that we could resolve in this Island Plan debate. We also have a country school that ironically does not have a green field space, but that is something that is being addressed by a planning application. But I go on to the points about opportunities for further and higher education and collaboration in terms of the site around Highlands College campus. Now, there has been toing and froing for many, many years once D’Hautree School was closed down in the 1990s about whether that was to be a housing offering. I have always been against that and the reason why I have always been against that is because St. Saviour is really built up in terms of District 1 and 2 with regards to housing, social needs, all those types of requirements, which I am sure the Constable of St. Clement and the Constable of St. Saviour will recognise. But I think we have got really, really positive opportunities, really exciting opportunities, to look at that campus and the way that we can consider it around the ability to meet the Island Plan policy, but the Island’s aspirations in terms of economic growth for people that are on-Island, and how that will look going forward in the next 20 to 30 years. So I do ask that we think long term when looking at these areas, and the fact the world is changing rapidly and we can provide opportunities that many other places cannot because our demographics are much smaller and we should be much more agile and flexible to meet those demands that, rightly so, the public expect of us. I think we need to consider our responsibilities around our own property strategy on behalf of the Island. We have spent many years toing and froing around the sites that we own and how that falls into the possibility of offering aspirations for Islanders. I would like to see something much more out-of-the-box thinking, much more forward thinking in terms of what we can offer in those areas. We should not be scared and we should not be talking about selling off the silver; we should be talking about how this makes things better for the majority of Islanders because that is our role, that is our job, that is what we should be doing. I refer to the Constable of St. Clement’s comment; St. Clement has taken a great deal of burden, whether that is housing, whether that is schools, whether that is quite an amount of population compared to other Parishes. St. Helier of course have taken the biggest burden but St. Clement is literally the next on demand. He refers to no additional recreational community facilities, and this is really important and we need to recognise how the Island Plan fits in with our capital planning in terms of public services. I have requested that improvements are brought forward and amendments are made to our youth facilities in terms of the St. Clement area because of the build-up in the area that we have seen over the years, particularly in the Samarès area and the Le Squez area, have many more families moving into many more apartments more than housing offering, which is why the youth community, the mental health, the educational offering and the provision that the Youth Service can provide in that area is absolutely significant. In order for us to drive that forward we need to ensure that we have the money in terms of capital planning and the planning gains and the Island Plan behind us in order to support the community that live in that area. From an education point of view and the Youth Service point of view I put those points across; but on a more individual, independent comment, listening to the comments so far I have to ask the question, because I heard the Deputy of St. Martin talking about: “We just need more and more houses in order to reduce cost and ensure that we have sufficient housing in the Island.” But I have to ask the question of how much housing would we need to build in order to reduce the cost so people could afford it? Our cost of living is one of our biggest issues and housing contributes to this. So I ask the Minister for the Environment to consider whether there is any consideration around modular building and what that modular building would look like and where it would be, because I think that would assist in our aspirations for affordable housing. But I also recognise the comments of the Constable of St. Ouen’s arguments arounds properties suiting the area within which they are situated, so I am sure technology and advancements in construction could overcome these issues. I go back to the point that we need to be a little bit more out-of-the-box thinking, but I think we need to absolutely be considerate of our surroundings. As a former Deputy of St. John I also recognise the arguments that a number of Constables have made around their recognition of their responsibility to have more homes in their own Parishes because of some of the demands that are required whether that is an honorary capacity in the Youth Service, in the Honorary Police service, whether it is right that we concentrate on a 9 by 5 Island on one particular part in our Island that makes us a community. On that note, for what it is worth, this is my contribution so far to this debate and I hope it has got other Members thinking and considering about how they look forward to some form of Bridging Island Plan coming forward.
It is always a pleasure to follow our Minister for Education, and I thank her at this stage for her and all her officers and all the hard work of all the teachers across this Island, on day one of the school holidays we owe them all a great debt. I will be brief. This has been a fascinating and interesting debate and it is full credit to all Members at the end of what has been an extraordinary week and an extraordinary few months for all sitting Members, and indeed yourself and all the Greffier staff to be still doing this at the end of this week. So I think we all deserve credit for that. My message is brief. I am the Deputy of St. Saviour District 1 and it is fair to say some of the big issues in our Parish is we have a high concentration of traffic because of the schools in one concentrated area of the Parish. I think as the Minister for Environment and his team look towards the future - and it has been talked about in terms of the future in schools - there has to be some careful consideration of the impact for the next 10 years of our Parish with the increased traffic and population and the needs of our residents and all Islanders who come into schools. Of course that does not just mean our Parish primary schools, of course I am talking about secondary schools like Victoria College as well and Hautlieu and Highlands College which serve a wider audience, and the impact of another school into the Parish. So when we are talking about the future, and of course our children speaking as a resident and a Parish Deputy of St. Saviour, I think we are all very aware of the pressures put on. For example, I took a walk with some parents of the St. Saviour Parish school across the road and all of a sudden you get to see it, how squished together we have become as an Island, the roads and the Parishes that were created many, many years ago were not obviously designed for the future of fast cars and the fast pace of life coming against the Island way of life. More cars, more people on the roads, more cyclists; the invention of these things where people can be easily distracted, and some of our narrow pavements and roads which others have mentioned. Speaking as many have done of their Parish, the impact of the Parish of St. Saviour as it wrestles like all of us, I just wanted to raise this afternoon.
The last thing I think I wanted to say was the reality of where we have found ourselves now is because of what we have all just collectively gone through as an Island and as a world because of this pandemic. The Minister’s team - and full credit to them - have tried to take everything into mind to come up with something because we have to do something to keep moving forward. But this Island will never forgive us if we make the mistakes of the past where we say we are going to do something and it never really comes true for whatever reason. Equally, the financial burden we are going to put on to future generations, we do not have a hospital still, and to be fair the site selection process - as Senator Farnham did mention earlier - it may have been a process but in reality it has come about that realistically there may only be one choice so why are we going to waste time and money on that, for an example. Why do we not come together as an Island, like we did for this pandemic, and just find the quickest, easiest, best, long-term, financially sound decision for this Island? That is the gauntlet that the Minister has, the department has, and we as this Assembly have, working together as Parishes, as an Island, as one to stop the divides where possible so we can come to the best solution of the future. We cannot waste any more money. We cannot waste any more time. Our Island, our children, our great-grandchildren will never forgive us if we do. The environment has been a top agenda, now the world health and well-being and the mental health and all of this has come together. So I applaud the Minister for what he is trying to do here, but the Island will never forgive us ... it is great to have the ambition, I am one who lives and thrives on optimism and ambition but we have to be realistic. How much money do we have, how much money can we realistically save, and when we are building things can we reassure that that money is locally done and is locally kept on this Island to future proof the Island for the future? That is all I want to say at this stage. I have enjoyed immensely this week; I am very proud of this Assembly this week, I am very proud to be a States Member today, and I congratulate the Minister for this debate and I look forward to his summing up. Thank you.
I have got 2 small things. One, in the 2014 Island Plan debate Deputy de Sousa from I think it was St. Helier No. 2, brought an amendment to limit the height of new buildings to, as I recall, 6 storeys. Every now and again we see people pushing it to the nth degree. The plans for the new building on the waterfront are effectively 7 storeys; but I just refer the Minister back to that. My main plea is St. Brelade’s Bay is a major tourist attraction and we have had various States decisions since 1967. Please can we have a definite statement to confirm that we shall have a long-term development plan for the bay. Can we have a definite decision to resolve the conflict between being both a green backdrop zone and a built-up area? The bay cannot be both and the 2011 and 2014 decisions, which the Minister may recall, not to mention back in 1967 ... I am not saying that the Minister will recall the 1967 Proposition but he will remember the other 2, and these decisions underline the general agreement in the States which the Planning Department seems to disagree with. It is nearly too late and unless we do something now the bay will lose its friendly and open appeal and it will be full of enormous houses, totally unsuitable for the area, and effectively deny access to the beach and the views to locals and visitors alike with a skyline resembling Monaco. It is time to save the essence of the bay and the time is now. Thank you.
I would like to thank the Minister and his team for stimulating this in-committee debate, and for Members’ contributions which have all been, I believe, extremely helpful and will achieve a good outcome in time. This is certainly an excellent forum to hear Members’ views. I simply want to say that as Chair of the Environment Scrutiny Panel we are very pleased to hear what Members have put out today but we would also be pleased in addition, as I am sure no doubt the Minister will, for input from the public in order to arrive at an equitable Island plan, albeit a bridging one at this stage. Thank you.
The Deputy Bailiff:
Does any other Member wish to speak in the debate? If no other Member wishes to speak in the debate then I invite the Minister to reply.
First of all, that was an incredible debate in my view, it was packed with content, packed with really important ideas, and it is a big challenge for the team, Deputy Guida and myself, in taking this forward. But I am not going to speak for long; I wanted to say just a couple of things. I want to say straight away that we will be sending around a paper to States Members responding to the in-committee debate, and I think that should be available ... I think we need to probably take it to the Council of Ministers first at the end of the summer, and outlining the direction we think is like a kind of preferred strategy; bearing in mind this is not the actual plan, this is the draft plan because of all the points I made earlier, that will be subject to all the processes I have described after. But we have to get a draft underway. That will include reflecting and responses on the points raised, the methodology, in particular, for the planning assumption scenarios, and seeking some to have endorsement - and I will just speak about that briefly in a moment - the spatial strategy which we think is emerging and what are the alternatives, and then particular points - really important points these - about utilisation of States assets which is a role the Regeneration Steering Group are going to be key to making sure that the plan is implemented, all of them can be implemented, housing policy particularly, and any fiscal stimulus. So obviously that report will be published and obviously Members’ engagement is absolutely vital. Now, a couple of things to say; obviously I wanted to highlight that the points Members made are full of exciting ideas and opportunity but the plan cannot deliver everything on its own. The tools that we have in the plan are one can set policies and we use the law to set policies, and I have made it plain that if those policies require us to bring forward a law amendment to enable it that can happen. I also think that it is possible for the plan to consider what I would call emerging policy. Where there is a consensus that this is something that we should put in or put forward then I think that can be done, but I think the judgments on those we are going to have to make downstream. The key point about the plan cannot deliver on its own; we need to have as well, accompanied with the fiscal measures and resources, to be able to have the plan turned into reality. That means tying it in, and I think numbers of Members have spoken about consistency with the Government Plan and so I think it is really important that throughout the process that continues and Members bear in mind throughout the various debates we are going to have on the Government Plan, and so on, that this consistency between the direction of travel in the Island Plan and what we are trying to do is important. Of course that means these things, as we have found today, just come right across Government, every Minister. I picked up a couple of things: Members want to see policies which really can happen and there is quite a strong plea I think for some less ambiguous policies, and for them to be stronger and bold. Of course that means they will not be popular with everybody and, therefore, choices will be necessary, which the process will help us make. One of the early points that came from today was the issue about the population assumption, and what the team have worked up to me - and I think it is a good idea - is that we will do the background work and with all the numbers we can get from all the various sources that I was talking, and we will then have a States Members workshop before the end of the year. In case I gave the impression that I was not recognising that the Chief Minister has committed to bring a Population Policy forward; absolutely, we will work with that. I will leave that to the team in some detail of how we do the timing on that but I think these things can be complimentary, so there is no question of ignoring any of the work being done of that Migration Steering Group. A couple of flags up that I think we will see in the paper, a lot of Members spoke about the historic environment, absolutely important, and massive issues about green space and the issue about density versus community infrastructure. I think these will be things that we will deal with in the paper in response. In particular, open space standards will have to be part and parcel of that, and this issue of sustainable transport and the impact upon open space standards and so on that others have made. The infrastructure issue is important and a number of Members have emphasised that, and I think again how far we go in that really depends on the evidence base that we have got available. I think we will have to make those judgments about what we can run with and what we cannot once we are a bit further down the road in which we can make that judgment on all those issues like water, energy, schools and so on. Obviously there are a lot of localised things like, for example, absolutely St. Brelade’s Bay, and as a St. Brelade Member myself you would expect me to highlight that. I think the character appraisal work that we are doing in the centre of St. Helier is very much also looking at St. Brelade as well and I am hopeful that will highlight it. I am just going to flick through because Members will know I have filled up a book of notes of all 28 speakers and I asterisk things as I went through as what I regard main things. There is a whole agenda about trees and open space which Deputy Guida is leading, and I think that can fit in well to our plan and what we are doing. Voice of children: very important. Deputy Ward gave us a big challenge, which certainly I have written down and starred, really important about the legacy that we leave behind. It is a well-known statement in the planning world that planning decisions are either enjoyed or endured well beyond the lifetime of the people that make them. I think that is worth just reflecting on that. Obviously issues of vision, a lot of visionary issue, and I think Deputy Mézec spoke about - and another key point for me here - what he called a new deal for St. Helier. I think what that is and what we work up is going to be part of that responsive work. A lot of really practical suggestions on housing, issues about downsizing.
I absolutely personally buy in strongly to the idea - this is me personally as only one Member - that all policies will require, as the Constable of St. Lawrence told us, the States Members to approve it but the idea of multigenerational homes and so on and making more efficient use of the buildings that we already have in the countryside. We have got issues about viabilities of development, yes, that needs to be attended to, and I think both Deputy Renouf and the Deputy of St. John, and supported by other Members, gave us a really helpful insight into the issues about the Parish communities. Again, that will be an area that I expect will feature strongly in our responses. I am trying to think, I think a lot of talk about the green zone policy and I think there is a lot of work there and a need to make sure that policy looks after woodlands and special places. That is an area we have to think about. But, again, I am talking the general big picture points, I am reacting to my notes here rather than being prescriptive, and obviously Senator Farnham highlighted this marine park issue which we have to look at. I am anxious not to keep Members too long, I think I am in danger here of trying to do the job that the officers are going to do for me. Please be assured that that report will be available to Members as soon as we can get it. I have to say, I think to be frank, I am blown away by this debate. It has exceeded by a country mile what I expected. There has been so much content, so much information, and it is a big challenge but it is really good to get this upfront so we know what Members’ expectations are at this very early stage starting point. I will pause there because it is 4.45 p.m., we have had a long week, and if any Member wishes to respond to what I have just said I am happy to do so, or any particular questions.
The Deputy Bailiff:
That concludes Public Business for this meeting and I invite the Chair of P.P.C. to propose the Arrangement of Public Business for Future Meetings. Deputy Labey?
Just 2 changes to the published Consolidated Order Paper. The following Propositions have been lodged and listed for 8th September, First Tower Park: protection from States Development, P.92 from the Connétable of St. Helier; and P.93, Establishment of a digital register of all commercial and residential properties lodged by Deputy Higgins of St. Helier. As things stand we do not have anything listed for any meetings after 8th September. There is quite a lot of business listed and it is possible that some could shift. Of course the 6-week lodging deadline for 8th September is 28th July and the 4-week lodging deadline is 11th August so there is still time for more. Looking at the topics down for debate it seems to me that on 8th September we will definitely need the Wednesday and Thursday for the sitting. Of course there could be deferrals and there could be withdrawals, but it is looking very full. I just wanted to let Members know also that we will help Members diarise deadlines for questions, for amendments to the Government Plan; work on that is being done by the Greffe as we speak and I just wanted to reassure Members of that. Before I close and move Public Business I just wanted to mark this is the 11th meeting of the Assembly to have taken place entirely on Teams, and perhaps we hope the last. We were the first Commonwealth legislature to move fully online when COVID-19 hit with all our Members taking part in all our proceedings. We have also broadcast all of these meetings on the radio and on the internet. We have had oral questions, statements, major debates, emergency legislation and business as usual all as if we were sat in the Chamber. Although there have been some technical problems and occasional interventions from dogs or children or my brother, these sittings have been remarkably successful, enabling the Assembly to take all the key decisions necessary to navigate the Island through this unprecedented public health and economic crisis. No other legislature has so successfully embraced modern technology. Look at the U.K. Parliament for a comparison. Our initiative has recently been highlighted by Microsoft as an example of ground-breaking innovation. I must pay tribute to the States I.T. and to Digital Jersey for enabling this to happen. For all the visible hours on this virtual stage during this unparalleled acceleration in Assembly activity, there are many more invisible hours of industry behind the scenes on the part of Members and of officers. The performance of the States Greffe has been outstanding, innovative and responsive. To the whole team, the Greffier, the Deputy Greffier, the Assistant Greffiers and each and every member of the Greffe staff including the ladies and gentlemen of the Law Drafting Department our grateful thanks. Also to you, Sir, and the Bailiff for managing our proceedings so adeptly in such unusual circumstances. Finally, I also pay tribute to us, to you, States Members, for learning how to use Teams, for speaking so passionately and persuasively on so many different subjects when sat on your own in your spare room or your kitchen, for following the new rules about using chat - most of the time - and being patient with the complex transition back to physical meetings. When called upon to represent you I could not be more proud. The Assembly may now be in recess but our work continues. The COVID-19 crisis continues. Many of us will be keen to return to matters that have been put on hold for the last few months. All of that notwithstanding, I very much hope that Members and officers will find at least a week or 2 for much needed rest and relaxation and I hope most of us will meet again in person when we do next meet on 8th September. With that I propose Public Business.
The Deputy Bailiff:
Thank you very much, Deputy Labey. Is that seconded? [Seconded] Does any Member wish to speak? Well, thank you very much, Deputy Labey, I am sure that all Members will probably endorse all that you have said, and speaking for myself all I can say is I express the hope and the wish that all Members will take a break, even a short break over the summer, and spend some time with your friends and families. Accordingly, I adjourn the States until 8th September of this year.