TAXPAYER-OWNED development companies should be required to meet minimum space standards when applying to build flats, the Treasury Minister has said – after a housing project was turned down by politicians who said the units were too small.
Deputy Ian Gorst defended the States of Jersey Development Company – which is owned by the government – after its proposal to build 139 flats at the former Planning Offices at South Hill was refused by the Planning Committee last week.
However, following repeated questioning in the States Assembly yesterday, the minister, who acts as the shareholder representative of States-owned firms, said that he would be ‘more than happy’ to reiterate to the JDC that properties must not fall below the minimum planning standards.
The South Hill development was rejected last week, despite it being recommended by planning officers for approval, as the storage space did not meet the required level.
During States question time yesterday, St Lawrence Constable Deidre Mezbourian said that 13% of the proposed flats within the development did not meet required planning standards.
Deputy Gorst replied by citing a consultation being carried out by Environment Minister Jonathan Renouf as to whether the minimum space requirements should be increased and added: ‘I am put in an impossible position when I know government officials have recommended approval for an application but Members of this Assembly, as is their right, have made a different decision.
‘As a general position the government would like to see larger units but there are consequences to larger units and, as the Housing Minister [David Warr] has said, that is that they generally cost more.’
When further pressed by Deputy Sam Mézec as to whether he was prepared to instruct the JDC to ensure that no property fell below minimum space standards in any future proposals for South Hill, Deputy Gorst said: ‘I am happy to say that, as a general rule, I think government-owned entities should be complying with the minimum standards but in this instance the JDC had an application that was previously rejected. They were instructed to go away and remove height from that building.
‘It is perhaps a little bit difficult for Members to criticise the JDC when they were responding to recommendations of the planning panel.’
He added that he was working with the firm to ‘make sure that they do meet those minimum standards’.
Earlier in the sitting, Deputy Renouf admitted that guidance surrounding minimum space standards for new homes had not always been fully applied in developments or ‘appropriately referenced’ during the planning process.
Responding to a question from Deputy Tom Coles, Deputy Renouf pointed out that he had recently issued new draft supplementary planning guidance to raise the requirements for the size of homes and introduce new guidance on the amount of parking spaces they should have.
‘That is because residential space standards have not been comprehensively reviewed since 1994,’ he explained.
‘Revised draft standards have been issued for consultation with relevant ministers, key stakeholders in the development industry and members of the public. I would be pleased to receive comment on them before I adopt new standards with or without amendment.’
The draft standards include raising the minimum internal area for a single-storey one-bedroom apartment from 34.5 square metres to 40.
Deputy Renouf said: ‘I think it’s interesting to put these guidelines into some kind of context.
‘The original standards that were [introduced] in Jersey were based on the Parker-Morris standards in the UK, which were initiated in 1967. They were withdrawn in the UK in the 1980s and as a result the UK has not – until very recently – had minimum-size standards. They are now reintroducing minimum-size standards and they are below the levels we are setting in the revised guidance I have issued.’
Trinity Constable Philip Le Sueur asked if Deputy Renouf thought government-led schemes should ‘strive to do better than the minimum’.
Deputy Renouf said: ‘I certainly would be keen to place emphasis on the word minimum.
‘The guidance does [also] provide more detail in terms of provision of particular forms of space within developments and I think that will result in a significant improvement in terms of wellbeing of occupants.’