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New call for bridge between Jersey and France

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BUILDING a bridge to France could help ease Jersey’s growing housing crisis and should be ‘properly investigated’ by the States, a former government adviser has said.

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Plans for a bridge between Jersey and the Normandy coast were first mooted more than a decade ago but never developed beyond the idea stage.

Kevin Keen, who has developed a reputation for turning around struggling businesses, has now said that the debate needs to be reopened and that feasibility studies be carried out.

In 2008, then-Environment Minister Freddie Cohen began investigating creating a road link between the Island and France, and estimates suggested that the cost could be as much as 1.5 billion euros.

However, Mr Keen, who is currently acting as interim chief executive at the JSPCA and has previously been a government adviser, believes that there would be ‘significant benefits’ and would allow Islanders unable to afford a house in Jersey to commute from northern France.

He said: ‘I am fortunate that I own my home and have done for years but I look at the struggles that people have and think housing is probably the biggest challenge we face.

‘Our problem is not that different from London or any other large financial district, except that people in other places have the choice to commute.

‘My daughter was able to buy a house in Guildford and commute into central London. I think a lot people would be happy to drive the 20 or 30 miles to Jersey.’

A recent housing-needs survey estimated that the Island would need 1,100 first-time-buyer family homes by 2030 if current population trends continued and that in total 7,000 new homes were needed by that date.

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Earlier this month, Andium were given the go-ahead to start work on a new 165-unit project at Ann Court, after States Members agreed to release a £37.8 million loan to allow the development to begin.

Mr Keen said: ‘Everybody looks at the bridge option and thinks, “That is terribly difficult. Let’s not even think about it”.

‘I feel it could at least do with some proper consideration. Clearly, it is not going to be cheap but construction of these things has got more advanced and the benefits could last for many years.’

He added that along with improving tourism, cost-of -living benefits and developing strong links with the continent, a bridge to France could assist the current problems the Island was facing in building a new hospital.

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‘I regularly hear people ask why students don’t come back to the Island after university to work in Jersey,’ he said. ‘One of the main reasons is because they cannot afford to buy a home.

‘We are seeing a lot of money spent on the new hospital. France seems to be able to build one a lot cheaper – they probably already have one there.

‘I think it is one of the those ideas that is worthy of some proper consideration and if it is not feasible to do that, so be it, but in the long term it could be the answer to a number of problems facing the Island.’

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