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Construction projects ‘should contribute to Island’s community’

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BUILDING developments that have an impact on Jersey’s landscape and affect Islanders’ lives should contribute towards community benefits, Planning’s head has told the construction industry.

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The department’s chief executive, Andy Scate, was a guest speaker at the annual Jersey Construction Council debate, with discussions dominated by the proposed Jersey Infrastructure Levy.

The controversial charge is designed to generate funds from private developments to spend on public and community projects – such as play areas, open spaces and gardens – as part of the regeneration of St Helier, and similar projects in other parishes.

‘We see a lot of value being created [by the construction industry] and I think that the community is entitled to a little piece of that to go back into the community to improve the value of our urban areas,’ Mr Scate told the more-than 50-strong audience.

States Members are due to debate next week whether to approve an in-principal agreement for a levy of £80 per metre on developments that have more than 75 square metres of floor space. Developers will be allowed to make a 20 per cent profit on their investment, and the charge will apply to retail, residential and office developments.

Social housing and charitable trust schemes and existing property refurbishment works will be exempt from the charge.

Mr Scate was joined at the event by Environment Minister Steve Luce and opponents of the proposed levy, including architect Andrew Morris and planning specialist Claire Smith, a senior associate at Ogier.

She said that areas in the UK where construction levies were in place had suffered a dip in planning applications and a slowing down of development.

‘Statistical evidence indicates that the [UK] Community Infrastructure Levy reduces the supply of affordable housing,’ she said, before quoting from a UK government report that ‘for every pound raised, local authorities are giving away £2’.

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Asked to respond by debate moderator solicitor Philip Syvret, Deputy Luce said that he would never propose anything that cost more than it made.

‘What evidence have you got for that?’ he said. ‘What minister would ever propose a scheme, whether it was building or health, where you come up with £1 and it costs £2.’

The JIL is being opposed by the construction industry in collaboration with the Jersey Chamber of Commerce, Jersey Farmers Union and the Jersey Hospitality Association.

They are concerned that it could cause the development sector to stagnate and claim it could increase the cost of a three-bed family home by £13,000 and deter landowners from selling, as they would get less return on their assets.

The proposition to introduce the levy in principle is due to be debated on Tuesday. During the debate Members will consider and amendment to the plans from Deputy John Le Fondré, who has proposed using a ‘sliding scale’ levy rate rather than a fixed charge.

Ahead of the debate, Planning has posted details of the proposition on the States website, including answers to questions raised during the public consultation process, which took place over the summer.

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