Minister rejects calls not to build on farming land

PROPOSALS to build homes on 11 agricultural sites have been met with a wave of objections from Islanders as part of a public consultation on the government’s draft Bridging Island Plan.

Environment Minister John Young Picture: DAVID FERGUSON.
Environment Minister John Young Picture: DAVID FERGUSON.

But Environment Minister John Young says he intends to press on with increasing the supply of affordable homes through the proposed sites despite the potential backlash. He did, however, remove two St Martin fields from his preferred list.

The draft Bridging Island Plan will set planning policy for the next three years, as the current plan expires this year. Ordinarily a new ten-year plan would be proposed, but the pandemic meant that work on a more wide-ranging policy was delayed, leading Deputy Young to bring forward proposals for a three-year plan instead.

A public consultation, which recently closed, attracted more than 2,000 comments, with numerous objections to the minister’s proposals for affordable housing sites.

The report says a ‘large number’ of objections were made regarding the inclusion of fields on the northern edge of St Helier and those centred in or around Five Oaks in St Saviour.

St Helier Constable Simon Crowcroft and St Helier Deputy Mary Le Hegarat lodged amendments to remove sites near Haute Vallée School and Grande Route de St Jean from the plans, while St Saviour Deputy Kevin Lewis asked that three areas near the Five Oaks roundabout – including a field by the former JEP offices – be protected from development.

The objections referenced a loss of natural green space, as well as the loss of dairy fields in St Helier and increased traffic levels in St Saviour.

One Islander said: ‘While I approve of affordable housing, I do not support this at the expense of green zones in the Island. The environment is part of the reason we all live in Jersey and building on our important farmland is not a price worth paying for additional housing.’

Another comment read: ‘I am concerned with the proposed level of development planned around Five Oaks. If not managed carefully, this could result in a significant level of pollution and an increase in traffic and congestion in the area.’

Meanwhile, a number of parishes – including St Martin, St John, and St Ouen which all pushed for housing to support elderly Islanders – offered additional locations for development .

Yesterday the minister published his initial response to the plan’s consultation, which ran over a 12-week period earlier this year.

The same period also saw 60 amendments put forward by States Members, calling for sites to be added to, or removed from, the development list.

Despite the largely negative response, the report said: ‘The Minister for the Environment is not minded to accept any of the proposed amendments to remove or add sites for the provision of affordable homes to the draft plan, but would be minded to consider amendment of the plan, involving the addition of replacement sites if this proves necessary, to maintain its integrity in terms of affordable-housing supply and the sustainable distribution of development.’

However, Deputy Young did acknowledge that this was with the exception of fields MN389 and MN390 in St Martin – located near the village centre – which ‘cannot be delivered to secure the provision of homes’. He also said he ‘wholeheartedly supports’ an amendment from Deputy Kirsten Morel which would designate Waterworks Valley as a countryside access site.

The report said: ‘The minister would encourage public access and awareness throughout Waterworks Valley and would seek to ensure that the area defined on the proposals map extends to the physical boundary of the valley beyond the northern end of Handois Reservoir.’

A further amendment from Deputy Graham Truscott to designate Corbière Walk as a protected open space received ministerial backing.

The next stage of the draft Bridging Island Plan process will see independent planning inspectors review the proposals, alongside consultation feedback, and put forward areas for further examination in public hearings.

Deputy Young said: ‘Once the examination stage is complete, the inspectors will submit their own report, which will be published, and States Members can propose further amendments in light of the recommendations of the inspectors.’

The draft plan will be presented to the States Assembly next spring for approval.

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