Population rises could ‘decimate’ Island

UNCONTROLLED rises in population could potentially ‘decimate’ Jersey’s coast and countryside, the Environment Minister has warned.

Environment Minister John Young. Picture: DAVID FERGUSON. (30285818)
Environment Minister John Young. Picture: DAVID FERGUSON. (30285818)

Deputy John Young said there was an absence of mitigation policies and that the population growth seen in previous years was ‘completely unsustainable’. He added that the Island would ‘absolutely be changed’ if no such policies were introduced to control it.

And a member of the Planning Committee has suggested that the Island should move towards ‘net-zero’ population growth. Deputy Kirsten Morel said that a continued increase in population would inevitably lead to Jersey becoming ‘entirely urbanised’.

Deputy Young said: ‘Seeing our population rise, which could potentially be en route to 140,000 or even more, would completely decimate the countryside. There are limits to what the built-up areas can take and we have seen the intensification of development in urban areas to protect the coast and countryside.

‘Of course you also have to look at the impact on water supplies, the infrastructure of drainage and sewage systems, and what about the cars?

‘Traffic congestion is [bad] enough as it is but do we want more? I’m not intending to stand in the next election but I believe this is and will be a major election issue.’

Deputy Kirsten Morel. Picture: ROB CURRIE. (30258711)

Meanwhile, Deputy Morel – who as a member of the Planning Committee helps to make decisions on some planning applications – said that Jersey needed to move towards a ‘net-zero population growth situation’ but that this required a lot of forward thinking and would take at least a decade to achieve.

He added that he had started ‘thinking strongly’ about the issue following a Scrutiny hearing in which Assistant Chief Minister Rowland Huelin said the proposed Population Policy – which has been delayed for a number of years – was unlikely to be available before the end of the year.

‘A population policy that is rushed out before the end of the year will not be a policy that is able to take into account either net-zero population growth or any strong reduction in population growth,’ said Deputy Morel. ‘Because our entire tax system, social security system and pension system are all dependent on population growth.

‘So to change from the model we have today is going to require a lot of time and a lot of thought. Personally I do think we need to move towards a net-zero population growth situation, but while I can say that today I am aware it would take at least ten or 20 years to achieve that.’

He added that one of the factors that made the Island ‘feel overcrowded’ was the level of traffic on its roads, and that this ‘wasn’t the case ten or 20 years ago’.

‘To manage population growth is to manage growth, and that means at some point in the future Jersey will become massively urbanised if not entirely urbanised,’ he said,

However, Deputy Huelin said that if proposals for a migration control policy were approved during a debate next month, they would establish the foundations for a ‘meaningful population policy’.

The migration policy outlines tighter immigration arrangements for access to housing and work. The two main routes to gain employment in Jersey would be as a ‘skilled worker’, with certain qualifications and experience, or through a nine-month temporary work permit.

‘This will allow the rate of net inward migration and access to permanent residency to be controlled to suit the needs of current and future generations,’ Deputy Huelin said.

‘The Council of Ministers are committed to delivering a Population Policy to the Assembly for debate by the end of 2021. The timing is tight but I am committed to preparing a policy that takes account of Brexit and Covid and is informed by full Assembly, stakeholder and Island consultation. The policy will need to set out the conflicting economic, social and environmental tensions.’

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