Is it time to dig deep to find a solution to the housing shortage?

Following a tiff with his parents as a teenager, Andrés Canto – now aged 20 – spent six years digging a hole in the garden. His labours have created a 10ft deep underground cave

Paula Thelwell. Picture: JON GUEGAN. (31012470)
Paula Thelwell. Picture: JON GUEGAN. (31012470)

AS the Island’s perennial affordable housing crisis creates an ever-gaping chasm between those who can afford to own a home and others for whom it is an impossible dream, there could be an ingenious solution from Spain.

Following a tiff with his parents as a teenager, Andrés Canto – now aged 20 – spent six years digging a hole in the garden of the family home in Alicante. His labours have created a 10ft deep underground cave, with steps down to a living room and bedroom with added comforts of heating, a music system and Wi-Fi.

As it has been signed-off by the authorities as a liveable space, Andrés has plans to extend the accommodation. With the cost of building plots and construction so expensive on the rock, and nimbyism at an all-time high, the only solution may be to dig down.

Rich list? I don’t give a damn

THE annual list of the wealthiest people in the land is lauded with much aplomb in the media.

I must be the exception to the rule. I fail to be impressed by how many millions, billions, trillions, quadrillions, septillions or nonillions the obscenely rich has stashed away in banks and hidden in tax-dodging schemes on offshore financial centres – tax havens by any other name. Such people only register on my radar when they appear on the much shorter giving list – an altruistic minority who, having accrued riches beyond anyone’s expectations, give it away to help others.

Des res

A SHEEP farmer in Dorset was recently outbid by a city dweller looking for a rural bolthole to escape the rat race of London.

A dilapidated mobile wooden shepherd’s hut, with a leaky roof and many other defects – and measuring 9ft by 8ft wide and 6ft high – sold for £16,000, which was 20 times the guide price.

The shepherd, who had hoped to use it for the purpose it was built for, was a tad disappointed having to pull out when he reached his maximum bid of £8,000.

The hut, which had sat in the grounds of a country house outside Shaftesbury for 50 years, will now be converted into a bijou holiday home or office.

With property prices in des res areas such as the South-West, Cotswolds and seaside towns escalating as people now accustomed to home working in the pandemic seek to flee the metropolis, what price will a humble garden shed fetch?

Sadly, the story is becoming much the same on the rock.

Don’t hold the front page

ARECENT story from north of Hadrian’s Wall – concerning the discovery of the earliest known carvings in the UK – brought to mind a supposedly history-defining moment I was asked to cover a few years back.

Work at St Lawrence Church had revealed what was believed to be the oldest known painting in the Island. Off I went, notepad in hand with a photographer in tow, excited at being one of the first to see this historic marvel in hundreds of years. Back at the JEP a space was being held on the front page to share this marvel with readers.

What would the painting be? A faded image of an apostle, Christ ascending to the heavens or medieval monks in prayer? Sadly not.

The perceptions of what constitutes a painting had changed over the ages and the coloured daubs that had got archaeologists so excited was – to be honest – boring.

Scoff and call me a philistine if you will, but I felt the same disappointment when the remains of the Mary Rose finally emerged from the depths of Portsmouth Harbour to be revealed as nothing but a collection of old timbers.

How often we find that expectations fail to meet reality. It happens every time an election is held.

Follow a leader

JERSEY, it is said, is on the way to becoming just another county of the UK but when it comes to the example being set by one English region that would be no bad thing.

Oxfordshire is on course to become smoke-free by 2025 by banning smoking outside bars, restaurants and offices while also creating spaces where people feel ‘empowered’ (that word should be banned) not to smoke.

What a brilliant idea for the Island, reputedly defined in an episode of Bergerac as ‘80,000 alcoholics clinging to the rock’ – to which at that time could have been added: ‘with a fag drooping from their lips’. But oh for those halcyon days when the population was so small and first-time buyers could afford a home.

Smoke-free Jersey could be a marketing tool to attract visitors and promote the Island as a healthy destination.

The downside of the smoking ban resulted in smokers, who had previously puffed away inside pubs, restaurants etc having to indulge their habit outside.

Al-fresco dining has been never been the same.

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