Restricting change of use would ‘stifle investment’

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During the Bridging Island Plan Examination in Public yesterday, both Economic Development Minister Lyndon Farnham and Jersey Business chief executive Graeme Smith spoke out against Deputy John Young’s modification of policy EV1 of the document.

The minister’s proposals, if passed, would mean visitor accommodation could not be changed in use unless several criteria were met. These include it not being ‘technically feasible’ to refurbish a facility and demonstrating there is ‘no market demand’ for the site’s continued use as a hotel or guesthouse.

Senator Farnham said that this would ‘stifle investment’ into visitor accommodation and that the proposals, as worded, almost amounted to an ‘outright ban’ on the practice.

He said: ‘I believe this will all but mark a return to the prime-site policies of the 1980s and the 1990s, and that policy had largely been discredited given its widely acknowledged negative impact on our tourism economy.

‘It did not allow the redevelopment of hotel sites. Once the hotel was there, it had to remain a hotel and that actually stifled investment in the sector for up to 20 years by enforcing old stock of hotels to remain in the market.’

Mr Smith said that such planning restraints would reduce the value of properties and discourage investment or bank lending.

‘It would cause me some concern about the level that I would lend against that asset because, in reality, over a period of ten, 15 or 25 years, the use of assets can change.

‘In some ways, what EV1 is trying to do is help secure the long-term viability and future of the industry. But key to that is investment in the assets because, as the need evolves, investment in those assets is critical,’ he said.

Kevin Pilley, head of place and spatial planning at the Government of Jersey, said that his department did not see the ‘market test’ to assess demand for the continued use of premises as visitor accommodation as a ‘key challenge’.

‘As a general principle, we don’t see that as being a key challenge, notwithstanding the fact that we recognise that the industry does,’ he said.

Also during the hearing, John Nicolson, of MS Planning, raised concerns that the Bridging Island Plan, which will set out planning policy for 2022 to 2025, did not have enough ‘flexibility’ to allow the development of more light industrial sites.

‘We can go back to the 2011 inspector’s report for the current Island Plan. There was an unmet need for light industrial distribution units but there were no allocations made in the 2011 plan,’ he said.

‘In the evidence base gathered for this plan, a shortage of supply is clearly referenced in there. No new sites are allocated in the plan.’

Mr Pilley said that there was scope to develop the existing eight protected light industrial sites and other land and buildings outside them.

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