PLANS to create up to 5,000 new homes by 2030 to address the Island’s housing crisis may not be deliverable if developers keep being denied permission to build, according to the Housing Minister.
Deputy David Warr expressed his frustration after learning that plans submitted by the Jersey Development Company to build 139 homes at South Hill in St Helier had been rejected for a second time by the Planning Committee.
The committee voted by six to three against the JDC scheme for the former Planning offices and adjacent land, which had been recommended for approval by officers after the scheme was downsized from an initial 153-home application.
Reasons for its refusal included the size of some of the units, the aspect of the buildings and concerns that those flats at the rear facing the quarry wall would not get enough sunlight.
The committee’s chair, Trinity Constable Philip Le Sueur, was one of those who rejected the application, citing concerns that flats at the back of the rear block would only have a view of a quarry face and inadequate levels of natural light.
He also voiced concerns that the mix of the development had changed away from three-bedroomed apartments towards more one- and two-bedroomed flats.
Another member, Deputy Alex Curtis, concluded that not enough had been done to provide sufficient views through the site from neighbouring vantage points, including South Hill Gardens.
St Lawrence Constable Deidre Mezbourian said she was concerned that the 15% of apartments designated ‘affordable’ would be at the back of the site.
‘How does that build communities?’ she asked.
Following the decision, Deputy Warr said: ‘I am very, very disappointed and I think the JDC will be as well; they had put a huge amount of work into this scheme, going away and following the recommendation of Planning officers in reducing the scale of the scheme – for it to be rejected for a second time probably leaves them thinking about the viability of the scheme.’
The decision also called into question the prospect of being able to meet the Island’s target for new homes, he added, with a possible need to find new sites if a development such as South Hill was no longer considered viable.
‘The Assembly has made a commitment to build 4-5,000 new homes by 2030, but I wonder if we will ever get to that number if we see rejection after rejection,’ he said.
‘We’re doing a disservice to the people of Jersey if we don’t carry on building.’
The minister also said that he regretted the attempts by one of his predecessors, Deputy Sam Mézec, to halt the development via an amendment due to be considered by States Members next week, with the Reform Jersey leader seeking to increase the proportion of affordable homes in the development beyond the 15% previously agreed.
‘If approval had been given, we would have had 15% affordable housing and other homes for the free market, but as it is we’ll have nothing,’ Deputy Warr said.
Deputy Mézec gave a contrasting view of the outcome on social media.
He said: ‘I am very pleased to learn that the Planning Committee has rejected the plan to develop a load of unaffordable homes on South Hill.
‘This provides the States Assembly with an excellent opportunity to change the brief for this site and focus on affordable homes.’
The politicians voting against the development were Constable Philip Le Sueur, Deputy Alex Curtis, Constable Kevin Lewis, Constable Deidre Mezbourian, Deputy Andy Howell and Constable Richard Honeycombe.
Those supporting the application were Deputies Steve Luce and Mary Le Hegarat, and Constable Marcus Troy.