Mike Waddington was speaking as a panellist at the Jersey Architecture Association’s discussion of St Helier’s role in addressing the current housing shortage, an event held as part of a week’s celebration of the organisation’s 60th anniversary.
Mr Waddington told his audience that housing should be regarded as an essential part of the Island’s infrastructure and that a creative approach to the streets of St Helier – encouraging residents to live above shops and exploring the benefits of what he described as ‘pocket living’ – could provide inspiration.
‘If people lived above shops, it might even encourage them to shop in those shops,’ he said, adding that developing lively streets to encourage walking, cycling and even children’s play would be one way of approaching the crisis.
‘We are in danger of forgetting the benefits of good design and we should be confident enough to develop our own sense of identity,’ he said.
St Helier Constable Simon Crowcroft, who was chairing the discussion, gave a qualified ‘yes’ to the question of whether St Helier could resolve the housing crisis but stressed the need for open space and parking to ensure that the town quality of living was maintained. He also repeated his concerns about proposals to build in fields to the north of the parish. ‘We need to protect St Helier from urban sprawl,’ he said.
Stephen Lilley, head of capital projects at Andium Homes, provided an update on the company’s current plans, saying that St Helier would provide 65% of the targeted 3,000 new homes due for completion by 2030. About half of these were due to be available, or be under construction, by the end of next year but there was still a need to identify new sites to fulfil the 3,000 goal, he said.
Fellow panel members Natasha Day and Ginny Duffell, senior officers in the Planning Department, discussed the challenges of reshaping planning policy set out in the 2011 Island Plan, which it was acknowledged was ‘not fit for purpose dealing with the current challenges’. This, they said, needed to be addressed in the development of the new Bridging Plan, which is currently in draft.
Ms Duffell pointed out that the department currently approved 80% of applications and that the majority which were refused were in the green zone.
However, she said that internal reorganisation and vacancies within the department had created additional challenges.