Committee for Economic Development Vice-President, Deputy Steve Falla, has filed a requete calling for a States’ debate on building key worker accommodation on a green field at Le Vauquiedor.
The requete, which is the first of this political term, has been supported by six other deputies, including Committee for Health and Social Care Vice President, Deputy Tina Bury. All deputies who signed the requete have stressed that they understand the essential need for key worker accommodation but believe brownfield sites should be given consideration before building on a green site.
The proposal from the Policy & Resources Committee is for 150 one-bedroom apartments to be built on the field next to the Duchess of Kent House.
“The field is a green lung within the built-up Princess Elizabeth Hospital estate and I believe it should be a last resort,” said Deputy Falla.
Deputy Falla, who is also a member of the Committee for Employment and Social Security, said he wanted to ensure that deputies are part of the decision-making process.
Pictured: Deputy Steve Falla has filed the requete, signed by six other deputies, to ensure the Assembly "is a part of the decision-making process".
“Deputy Mahoney has said publicly that the majority of the members of the Policy & Resources Committee and HSC ‘are wanting to develop these proposals and have agreed to explore them further’. At the very least, I and my requete colleagues want to ensure that there’s a debate in the States Assembly about this," said Deputy Falla.
“The requete is to ensure that a safeguard is in place and that the whole Assembly has a part to play in deciding whether the decision to build on the green site is appropriate.”
Deputy Falla said the process over the decision so far has been “less than ideal with no proper options appraisal.”
“In my view, it is not right that two committees, which are not unanimous, may be able to build on the green field at the PEH without coming to the States."
Pictured: Committee for Health and Social Care Vice President, Deputy Tina Bury said she “couldn’t be more aware of the need for additional key worker housing”.
Deputy Falla continued: “I believe it would also be hypocritical for a decision to be made that other people in the community wouldn’t dare ask for on the assumption that permission to build on such a greenfield site would almost certainly be denied.”
Committee for the Environment & Infrastructure President, Deputy Lindsay de Sausmarez echoed Deputy Falla's comment.
"If the famous hypothetical Mrs Le Page owned that field and had applied for planning permission to build on it, her application would have been categorically rejected, quite simply because it does not meet the planning policies set out in the IDP," she said.
Pictured: Deputy Lindsay de Sausmarez said "when it comes to the question of where to build that accommodation, we should be looking first and foremost at brownfield options".
Deputy de Sausmarez continued: "It doesn’t sit right with me that a small handful of deputies can decide to develop an area that the States have, through a democratic process, agreed should be specifically protected from development.
"There is undoubtedly a strategic need for keyworker housing, but that does not mean there is a strategic need to build it on green fields when there are better sites available; in fact, given the challenges we face with respect to climate change and nature loss, there is a strategic need to protect green spaces that haven’t already been zoned for potential development."
Deputy Falla said that the Duchess of Kent building, next to the field, would be “a better site for key health worker accommodation”.
“I would reiterate that I am fully in support of the essential need to build keyworker accommodation, particularly for healthcare workers, but I believe other options should be considered,” he said.
Pictured: The greenfield site which Deputy Falla has described as "the green lung" of the PEH development.
Deputy Falla continued: “I am aware that the Duchess of Kent building had been earmarked for accommodation previously and this would be a far more preferable option.”
The requete was also signed by deputies Peter Roffey, Lindsay de Sausmarez, Adrian Gabriel, Heidi Soulsby and Simon Fairclough.
Committee for Health and Social Care Vice President, Deputy Tina Bury, said that the issue has seen “key worker housing and preserving our green spaces being pitted directly against one another”.
“As a states member I have to take into account more than one factor when decision-making; politics would be quite a bit easier if that weren’t the case,” she said.
“The suggestion to build on the green field (the Valley) between the PEH and Duchess of Kent House is, in my opinion, so controversial that it’s absolutely imperative that all other options have been explored first.
“To date, despite requests and aside from fairly informal conversations, I have not seen any sort of options appraisal that assures me that has been done robustly, nor have I seen data that evidences the need for key-worker housing to be on the PEH site at all.”
Pictured: Deputy Peter Roffey hopes that "most deputies" will oppose building accommodation on the greenfield site.
Deputy Bury said that the Duchess of Kent House presented “a viable option” as an alternative.
“I do not see how the Valley can be used under the S5 planning policy ‘a key strategic need’, as this is only possible when there are no other options available,” she said.
“The States circumventing their own planning policies, to the detriment of our green spaces and the environment when other options are available, is not something I can support.
“This requete will highlight the issue to the public more widely and gives opportunity to the whole Assembly to decide on this controversial suggestion democratically, rather than the decision being made behind closed doors, so I am very happy to be supporting it.”
Pictured: Several deputies have proposed the Duchess of Kent House next to the greenfield site, as a preferable option for the staff accommodation.
Deputy Roffey said that his support for the requete stemmed from “a belief that agricultural fields should be the very last resort for any development proposal”.
“It seems to me as if the majority of P&R and HSC have gone straight for building on a very charming green field as the line of least resistance,” he said.
“I would like to make it clear that I am totally in favour of extra key worker housing. Much of this can and should be integrated with other housing tenures around the island; key workers should not be regarded as a tribe apart.
“That said, I do accept that in the case of health care workers, who may be in Guernsey for a relatively short period of time, and working long shifts at unsocial hours, there does need to be accommodation provided close to the hospital; the question is where that accommodation should be.”
Deputy Roffey agreed that the Duchess of Kent site would be a preferable option, and also suggested the current dairy site and the grounds of Frossard House.
“I worry that this move is part of a wider approach by the property lead on P&R to build on Guernsey's precious remaining green fields. After all, we have already seen Deputy Mahoney propose building upmarket homes on several green fields around the Castle hospital.
“I don't support this approach, I don't think the majority of the Guernsey public does either; I hope most deputies oppose it too. This requete will therefore represent an interesting test case and I think it is a debate which needs to be had.”
Pictured: The requete has been filed to request a States' debate on whether building key worker accommodation on the greenfield site is "appropriate".
Deputy de Sausmarez added: "I’m pleased to be a signatory on this requete. I believe many islanders would agree with the requerants that building on a conveniently located brownfield site would be far preferable to concreting over this green valley, so I hope States members take this opportunity to demonstrate their support for both keyworker accommodation and our valuable countryside.
"Our green spaces are important, and all the more so as we’re a small island where space is a really valuable commodity. Once we’ve built on a green field we’ve lost for good its natural capital value and all its ecosystem services: the wildlife it supports, the carbon it sequesters, the air and water it filters, the flooding it mitigates, and of course the benefits it brings in terms of visual impact and what planners call ‘amenity value’, which is particularly relevant in a health setting."
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