Letter to the Editor: Questions over Planning’s role in infrastructure projects

From Michael du Pré

letterr

HAVING been invited along with a handful of other ‘community members’ to attend a consultation on the ‘Jersey Infrastructure Levy – Community Investment Opportunities’, I learned that Planning Department staff had (evidenced by a draft report at least three inches thick) long been working on a proposal to impose a levy on the profit accruing to landowners on their land being granted planning permission.

Initially, this sounded reasonable, since the release of new plots of land and additional storeys on them would, over time, contribute imperceptibly but incrementally to the need, at some later stage, for a ‘step change’ in the size of the Island’s existing essential infrastructural installations, such as roads, schools, power plants, transportation, communications and sewage treatment plants.

The latter was a case in point. Bellozanne has for some years been discharging up to four times the legally permitted limit of destructive nitrogen into St Aubin’s Bay, largely due to population expansion/new land usage and also because a nitrogen removal plant costing £30 million is deemed not affordable.

Whereas it is fair enough for the taxpayer to pay for the replacement of existing worn-out structures, shouldn’t landowners shoulder these incremental costs between them by means of paying a levy into a pool?

My first surprise was that Planning’s proposal appeared to start from the premise that a good way of raising money had been found (what can we do with it?) rather than that a real requirement had been established to seek a way to fund step changes in the construction of major installations that were being imperceptibly accumulated on an incremental basis by profiting landowners.

The second was that Planning were almost apologising to landowners for taxing their hard-earned profits. Thirdly, why were Planning, not Infrastructure, running the project since the latter knew the Island’s infrastructural requirements, whereas Planning would only be the collecting agent and beneficial allocator of the funds?

Fourthly, it seemed unclear whether ‘infrastructure’ meant minor ‘beautification’ projects rather than what is normally considered as ‘infrastructure’.

Fifthly, we were assured that it would probably need only one additional States employee to run the scheme and sixthly, perhaps most importantly, since Constable Crowcroft would shortly be receiving a committed £50 million to regenerate St Helier from the SoJDC on its realisation of the profit on its International Finance Centre development, why was it being proposed that 90 per cent of the levy was to be donated to St Helier?

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