THE government is failing to hit a target of 800 new homes a year, a planning appeal has heard.
Planning consultant John Nicolson said the government was falling significantly behind this and described potential sites for housing as a “complete fantasy”.
Mr Nicolson this week listed projects identified in the Bridging Island Plan and supporting documents which had been identified as supplying a ‘pipeline’ of homes – but which had then either been delayed, rejected or withdrawn.
He presented the dire assessment of current-versus-predicted supply in support of an application to demolish the Hotel Savoy at Rouge Bouillon and replace it with 53 apartments.
Hotel director Roberto Lora has twice had proposals refused by the Planning Committee, and an independent inspector this week heard his appeal, which was presented by Mr Nicolson of MS Planning.
Mr Nicholson said, in his assessment, around 250 new units had been added to the net housing stock last year – far short of targets set in the Bridging Island Plan, which defines planning policy until the end of 2025.
The minimum target of 800 homes per year took account of the net 1,800-unit shortfall from the last Island Plan, which covered 2011-2020, and was a doubling of the previous 400-home target.
Overall, the BIP sets a net target of at least 7,900 homes, which are required up to 2030.
However, Mr Nicholson referenced some of the ‘windfall sites’ which the government had identified as sources of supply.
These included Westaway Court (75 units), which is now nursing accommodation; South Hill (150 units), for which plans have been rejected twice, with an appeal heard yesterday; the Ambulance Station (75 units), planning permission for which has now lapsed; and the States’ La Motte Street Offices (100 units); Le Bas Centre (100 units) and St Saviour’s Hospital (150 units, for which no applications have yet been submitted).
“This list of potential sites is a complete fantasy and will not come forward in the plan period. We will get nowhere near the 800 units a year,” he said.
“But the situation is actually worse than that because 106 units were earmarked for the Stafford and Revere hotels, which are now cleared for a new outpatients’ hospital, 121 affordable homes were destined for Gas Place, which looks likely to be the site for a new primary school and extension to the Town Park. Southwest St Helier was refused last week, and Les Sablons has also been refused.
“As a community we are failing to meet the Island’s development needs and failing to look at the Bridging Island Plan as a whole. We are refusing more applications than we are approving.”
Mr Nicholson argued that it was critical that the Savoy application, which is on a brownfield site in St Helier, was assessed in this context.
Independent planning inspector David Hainsworth is assessing the Hotel Savoy appeal against a second refusal in May by the Planning Committee, which followed the recommendation of the Planning Department.
The principal reasons for refusal were that the proposed development would result in “unreasonable harm” to the amenities of neighbours, it would be “dominant and intrusive” and “poorly related to neighbouring buildings” and the internal layout would lead to “cramped, unpractical, low-quality residential units”.
A resident to the north of the site, in Gloster Mews, made a submission in person at the appeal to argue that the proposed development would deprive her garden of daylight and sunlight.
Policy ‘GD1’ of the BIP states that no development can “unreasonably affect the level of privacy to buildings and land” and “unreasonably affect the level of sunlight and daylight to buildings and land” that owners and occupiers might expect to enjoy.
The hotel argues that the sunlight and daylight modelling it has performed puts the garden within accepted parameters but this was contested at the appeal by the resident, who had commissioned her own assessment.
Mr Lora is appealing against all elements of the refusal.
Having heard all arguments, Mr Hainsworth will consider the evidence before making a recommendation to the Environment Minister on whether he should accept or reject the appeal.