Deputy Victoria Oliver, the President of the States’ Development & Planning Authority, says she has so far had only limited involvement with the Policy & Resources Committee’s plan to build around 90 private homes on the site of the Castel Hospital and surrounding green fields.
And she insists that publicly expressing strong support for the Policy & Resources Committee’s property plans generally does not affect her impartiality to consider any planning application for housing at and around the Castel Hospital.
Earlier this week, the Policy & Resources Committee’s property lead, Deputy David Mahoney, said the States “own a large area of land surrounding the site and initial design plans have already been drawn up to develop additional housing” and that “Deputy Oliver and her Development & Planning Authority team are working closely with the Policy & Resources Committee at each stage”.
But Deputy Oliver says she has not seen any of the Policy & Resources Committee’s plans for the site.
Deputy Oliver told Express: “I haven’t seen any plans drawn up or anything like that. They came to us asking...how we would go about doing it and that’s about it.
“I haven’t seen any of the plans that have been put forward. I just make sure that I do keep a step back.”
Pictured: A renovated part of the Castel Hospital currently accommodates nearly 300 health and care staff, but the Policy & Resources Committee has said that would not need to prevent the construction of around 90 private homes if fields around the Hospital were developed first.
At one time, the States were legally allowed to disregard the island’s planning policies for their own developments. But the Development & Planning Authority is now required impartially to judge applications from States’ committees against the policies of the States’ Island Development Plan in the same way as applications from private individuals or companies.
“I will help facilitate and guide people in the right direction. Not just the Policy & Resources Committee, but anybody that wants to come forward,” said Deputy Oliver.
“I will either suggest pre-application meetings or get an architect to help them out. I’ve always been very open with people and show people how to use the Island Development Plan.
“It makes no difference that it’s the States. There is still the same planning process to go through. They have to make an application, consultation will happen, people will still get to have their say on it – just like any other proposal.
“There is actually further scrutiny as the proposal is so big it will have to go to an open planning meeting.”
The Policy & Resources Committee has not yet released any drawings of its plans for the Castel Hospital site. Deputy Mahoney has said they involve “three-, four- and five-bedroom houses for families to buy and occupy…provisional design plans have highlighted that the site has capacity for around 90 such houses with appropriate outside space and parking”.
Pictured: The Policy & Resources Committee has said it wants to partner with one or more developers to build large private homes at and around the Castel Hospital site, but the plan faces opposition from some deputies who want to see development contained to the Hospital site itself and reserved for social or affordable housing.
The plans as articulated so far appear to take no account of a controversial planning policy – known as GP11 – which requires developments of the size put forward by the Policy & Resources Committee to set aside 30% of the developable part of the site for affordable housing.
Deputy Oliver indicated that the Development & Planning Authority is open to setting aside or backing amendments to GP11 and other planning policies where that could be done legally and properly.
“At the moment, the Authority – and it’s not just for GP11 – is trying to streamline the process that [the States’ Assembly] have to go through to actually change the Island Development Plan,” said Deputy Oliver.
“At the moment, there are something like 15 or 16 processes…we’re trying to reduce it to four.
"It won’t necessarily be for GP11. If we do decide to change, it will help us with the process. Again, the normal consultation will be done with people so it’s not just turning up to the States and saying: ‘Well, we’re changing that’.”
Meanwhile, the President of the Committee for the Environment & Infrastructure, which is responsible for general housing policy as well as the environment, says it is already clear that the island’s planning laws and policies would not support putting up 90 private homes on the site of the Castel Hospital and surrounding green fields or anything close to the kind of scheme currently being promoted by the Policy & Resources Committee.
Pictured: Deputy Lindsay de Sausmarez is asking the Policy & Resources Committee to scale back its plans to develop the Castel Hospital site and surrounding land and focus on developing brownfield sites and prioritising affordable and social housing.
Deputy Lindsay de Sausmarez said the scheme would amount to “suburbanization of our countryside” and “urban sprawl” and asked the Policy & Resources Committee to refocus on developing brownfield sites rather than Agricultural Priority Areas, open green spaces and countryside.
“We need more housing in the island and I’m strongly supportive of initiatives that will help deliver the mix of housing we need. However, I’m a bit confused by Deputy Mahoney’s plans to use the greenfield land around the Castel Hospital for housing,” said Deputy de Sausmarez.
“As a small island, it’s particularly important that we use the limited space we have efficiently and effectively. That’s why our planning policy supports development like new housing in what we call the main and local centres – existing communities with good access to services, etc.
"Our planning law does not support the suburbanisation of our countryside for obvious reasons that I’m sure most islanders clearly and instinctively understand.
"If the plan were simply to repurpose an existing but redundant developed area or brownfield site outside of a main or local centre then that would make some sense to me. But if this proposed development needs to encroach on the green land around the site then it would seem the housing density is wrong.
"It should be scaled right back so that it fits on the previously developed area. If it encroaches on the surrounding agricultural land or areas rich in biodiversity, it is quite simply urban sprawl.
"There is still plenty of land within the centres that could be developed for housing, so I can’t understand the logic of building over our countryside instead."
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