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Jersey Heritage is in a ‘perilous financial position’

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JERSEY Heritage is in a ‘perilous’ financial position and will require government help if it is to avoid serious damage to the Island’s public heritage service, according to its director, Jon Carter.

Archirondel Tower

Mr Carter was speaking as Deputy Montfort Tadier promised to try to relax restrictions preventing public use of self-catering accommodation which Jersey Heritage offers in some of its smaller historic sites.

While welcoming the initiative, Mr Carter cautioned that the limited income this would generate could only be used for the maintenance of those properties.

‘Income from heritage lets is all used on the conservation of these historic buildings, so opening them up will not make a difference to the overall financial position of Jersey Heritage which is perilous because of the tourism situation,’ Mr Carter warned.

‘There is a lot of local interest and we’d obviously like to be able to respond to that as soon as the guidance says it is safe to do so but it is only a small part of our financial challenges, which are related to the tourism economy, and we are going to need government help if we are to avoid a very serious negative impact on the public heritage service and conservation of heritage assets later in the year,’ he said.

Deputy Tadier, who is Assistant Economic Development Minister with delegated responsibility for culture, said he would like to see some of Jersey Heritage’s self-catering accommodation available as soon as possible for Islanders to use for ‘staycation’ breaks.

‘We know that tourism has been very adversely affected and Jersey Heritage isn’t immune from that, and secondly there is a wellbeing issue.

‘There are lots of families who are exploring the Island and seeing things they’ve not seen before, so if we’re not going to be able to have the tourism season we want, we could still offer them a good holiday experience locally.

‘They would feel that they’d have had a holiday and at the same time get these sites being used,’ Deputy Tadier added, saying that health and safety requirements would be simpler than those that might have to be applied in hotels with public areas for guests. Currently the safe exit framework makes no distinction between the two.

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The holiday accommodation ranges from forts and round towers to the Second World War radio tower at Corbière, and also include units of accommodation at Elizabeth Castle and Hamptonne.

Deputy Tadier said that he was particularly interested in the potential of some of the smaller sites.

‘It would work well because discrete family units could occupy the spaces for a few days or a week and they could be cleaned for another group coming in. At the same time it gives a revenue stream for Heritage,’ he said.

Jersey Heritage closed its public sites in March in response to government restrictions but it has announced that open-air parts of Mont Orgueil Castle, Hamptonne and La Hougue Bie would reopen this week following the recent relaxation of the lockdown.

Deputy Tadier is also to approach the Education Department to try to promote access for local students to some of those larger sites.

‘In the absence of schools opening, there might be an opportunity to have a small cohort of children exploring Elizabeth Castle, Gorey Castle or La Hougue Bie. It could be really memorable for them if that could be done safely, so I have asked for conversations to be had with Education in that regard as well,’ he said.

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