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Building staff housing on green fields could be millions cheaper

Building staff housing on green fields could be millions cheaper

Thursday 30 June 2022

Building staff housing on green fields could be millions cheaper

Thursday 30 June 2022


Key workers' housing has an occupancy rate of 99% and there is enough demand for additional healthcare workers alone to fill another 150 units immediately if the units existed.

The Policy & Resources Committee says this urgent need for more key workers' housing is one of the main reasons why deputies should vote against a requête which seeks to avoid building staff accommodation on green fields, including next to the Princess Elizabeth Hospital.

"It is concerning that recruitment feedback indicates that candidates are not pursuing roles in Guernsey due to the challenges of finding suitable, affordable accommodation and that, where recruitment is undertaken via agencies, it appears that agencies are no longer referring applicants to [the States] in the knowledge of those issues," said the Committee.

The Committee said it had been informed by the Committee for Health & Social Care "that the number of vacant posts is returning to pre-pandemic levels, with 422 vacancies in the 12 months to May 2022 and a significantly increased annual turnover of 20.4% [414 leavers] compared with 295 leavers during May 2019-2020".

Despite the level of demand for key workers' housing, there is outline or full planning permission in place for only 17 additional units of affordable housing - which includes key workers' housing - over the next two years, although this number could be increased by various other developments in St Sampson's which are currently being drafted.

PEH_nurses_key_worker_housing.jpg

Pictured: Lack of affordable housing is a significant factor behind the difficulties of recruiting and retaining key workers for essential services.

The requête is likely to be debated at the States' next meeting in mid-July. It is led by Deputy Steve Falla and has the support of the Vice President of the Policy & Resources Committee, Deputy Heidi Souslby, as well as Deputies Lindsay de Sausmarez, Adrian Gabriel, Tina Bury, Simon Fairclough and Peter Roffey.

They want the States to agree:

  • "that there needs to be a significant increase in key workers’ housing in Guernsey;
  • "in respect of healthcare workers, key workers' housing must include a variety of options at sites in the community to suit the full range of key employees; 
  • "that in respect of any single person staff accommodation located next to the Princess Elizabeth Hospital, the focus should be on brown field sites, including the possible redevelopment of the former Duchess of Kent House; and
  • "that Agricultural Priority Areas should not be used by the States for staff accommodation unless there is demonstratively no alternative, and only then following a policy letter to the States seeking permission so to do."

The requête faces an amendment submitted by Deputies Yvonne Burford and Jonathan Le Tocq, which would maintain the policy in the requête of protecting green fields but without attempting to override the role of the Development & Planning Authority to determine planning applications.

But the majority of the members of the Policy & Resources Committee want the requête to be rejected by the States and the Committee has circulated a 55-page report, signed by its President, Deputy Peter Ferbrache, setting out its reasons.

Deputy Steve Falla

Pictured: Deputy Steve Falla is leading the requête, which the States are expected to debate next month.

The Committee said there are currently 371 units of accommodation for key workers and that this number needs to be increased substantially to satisfy demand and ensure that essential public services, including in healthcare and education, can recruit and retain the staff the island needs.

"[Evidence] from the Committee for Health & Social Care demonstrates that for a Band 5 qualified nurse, a private rental value of £1,500 per month represents 40% of their net income for the period where they are in receipt of rent allowance. Once rent allowance expires after a maximum two-year period, this increases to 80% of their income. This influences the number of vacancies as well as the challenges of recruiting new staff," said the Policy & Resources Committee.

"The Vice President of the Guernsey and Alderney Division of the British Medical Association has written to Deputy David Mahoney, in his capacity as political lead for States’ property, and pointed to the impact on a wide range of roles. The letter...indicates that many nurses, midwives and associated professionals leave Guernsey when their rent allowance expires.

"It further refers to several cases where medical consultants have left Guernsey in the past three years citing the high cost of accommodation in Guernsey and the commensurate lower disposable income as a major factor in their decision to leave. The...letter summarises that the provision of suitable accommodation is essential to maintaining the island’s healthcare service."

Al_brouard_green_field_duchess_of_kent_hospital_.jpg

Pictured: Deputy Al Brouard, the President of the Committee for Health & Social Care, wants to take forward the idea of building key workers' housing in a green field on the Princess Elizabeth Hospital site and opposes being required to use the former Duchess of Kent residential home site instead.

The Policy & Resources Committee said that information from the Committee for Health & Social Care "indicates that most healthcare workers requesting accommodation do stipulate that they wish to be as close to their workplace as possible, which for a high proportion of staff will be the Princess Elizabeth Hospital".

The Committee also said that "the letter from the British Medical Association...suggests that a purpose-built development on the Princess Elizabeth Hospital site which provides housing for key workers for the term of their employment is essential".

But the Committee acknowledged the need for a choice of accommodation for key workers, including some units further away from their workplace. 

Deputy_Peter_Roffey_and_Steve_Williams_and_data_park.jpg

Pictured: Steve Williams, Chief Executive of the Guernsey Housing Association (left), and Deputy Peter Roffey, President of the Committee for Employment & Social Security (right), hope that newly-acquired sites, such as a parcel of land off Route Militaire (above), will include more key workers' housing as well as other types of affordable and social housing. 

The Committee referred to an analysis of potential sites for additional housing for key workers in healthcare which was carried out by officials and took into account a range of criteria. 

"The field adjacent to the Duchess of Kent site, which is referred to in the [requête], scored highest and was ranked first out of the 14 sites," said the Committee.

"The Duchess of Kent site itself was not ranked because it did not meet the key criteria for delivery within five years...but it did otherwise score joint second with three other sites."

The Committee said that "an initial high level ‘order of magnitude’ cost estimate has been undertaken internally by quantity surveyors to allow the assessment of the relative costs of the two options": building key workers' accommodation in the green field, which the requête hopes to prevent, or building it on the site of the former Duchess of Kent residential home in the grounds of the Princess Elizabeth Hospital, which is currently used for other healthcare services. 

The Committee estimated the cost of building two blocks of accommodation with 140 car parking spaces in the green field at between £36m and £44m and the cost of building only one block of accommodation with only 60 car parking spaces on the Duchess of Kent site at between £33m and £39m.

READ MORE...

Deputy Roffey signing key worker requête is "alien and incredulous"

Requete filed to "ensure a safeguard is in place" over the decision whether to build on hospital green field

Requête may propose key worker housing - but not on green fields

Clash over site of key worker housing

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