THE Planning Department is more than halfway through the consultation period for the draft bridging Island Plan. This is essentially an interim, temporary measure to deal with the housing crisis in the Island, characterised by unaffordable housing and a lack of appropriate homes.
Firstly, there doesn’t appear to be any explanation as to how the Island came to be in this situation, but it is clear from the endless amount of correspondence to this newspaper that the public at large believe it to be due to the absence of any meaningful population strategy and absence of controls over who can buy property in the Island. Added to this is the low-interest-rate environment, which makes housing a more attractive asset class to invest in, at least in the short-term – until the low-tax environment is challenged. We must remember, too, that the housing crisis is not an issue which only affects Jersey, as it has been reported that a similar situation exists in Guernsey as well as in the UK.
Secondly, there is, lost among the opening paragraphs of the draft plan, the tacit assumption that the population will continue to expand. It is not in Planning’s remit to deal with this aspect of the problem, but a little joined-up thinking wouldn’t go amiss. House-price inflation is due to both excess demand and lack of supply, but to deal with only one side of the equation is to fight only half the battle.
Planning, therefore, have once again suggested, among other recommendations, that part of the problem can be relieved by building on prime agricultural fields. This is not the solution, as we have all seen in the past where this has happened many times that this approach has done nothing to solve the problem and just causes detriment to the environment.
These fields, together with the rest of the green zone, must be protected from the incessant creep of concrete, so that future generations can benefit from them in the same way that previous generations have – particularly for growing food, which means less reliance on imports. Let us not forget too that Warwick Farm was rejected from the list of proposed new hospital sites partly on the basis that it is situated in the green zone.
There are plenty of brownfield sites, derelict sites, empty shops and offices and even a former hospital in St Saviour that could all be pressed into service. The green zone is a soft target that requires little imagination or effort to destroy permanently and once it is lost it is lost forever.
To express my opposition to these proposals, therefore, I have started an online petition on the Gov.je website. So, if you wish to ‘Protect the 18 Green Field Sites’, then please take the time to support this petition which can be located at petitions.gov.je/petitions/200687.