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FOCUS on Leale's Yard: Door left open for States' involvement

FOCUS on Leale's Yard: Door left open for States' involvement

Wednesday 20 April 2022

FOCUS on Leale's Yard: Door left open for States' involvement

Wednesday 20 April 2022


The Co-op and its development partners say they are confident that private investment can fund their ambitious plans for Leale’s Yard – but the possibility of States’ involvement is not being ruled out.

The Channel Islands’ retailer is working with Charles McHugh, founder of Strategic Development Partnership, and Jeremy Rihoy, Chairman of Rihoy & Son, to propose turning the 13-acre site behind The Bridge into 300 homes, a new food store, other retail space, a multi-storey car park for more than 300 vehicles and various civic and green areas. They estimate their scheme would cost £50million during construction with spending of £150million on local facilities management services after construction.

“This is a privately-funded venture,” said Mr Rihoy, whose company will be responsible for all building works.

“There is a special purpose vehicle company which has been created to partner with the Co-op to create a structure which will be responsible for the development and the financing of the whole thing."

Mark Cox, Chief Executive of the Co-op, confirmed that “private investment is delivering this project” and said it was “a huge vote of confidence in Guernsey and its future”.

Mr Cox said that no public investment was required upfront and that “at the moment” there is no States’ involvement in the proposed scheme.

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Pictured: The developers who are partnering with the Co-op to put forward the latest plans for Leale's Yard believe they are proposing the largest single development project ever undertaken in Guernsey.

However, Mr Cox is leaving the door open to discussions with the States about becoming involved at some point, including financially.

“We want to get this off the ground,” said Mr Cox. “But there are some viability pieces which still need to be tested.

“We’re hoping that government will see the benefit. We’re confident privately that we would be able to deliver. But we would like some assistance I think it’s fair to say – because of the benefit this is going to bring to Guernsey.”

States’ involvement is unavoidable in one respect: the scheme cannot go ahead until planning permission has been obtained from the Development & Planning Authority.

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Pictured: The proposers of the scheme hope the first businesses and homeowners will move in within three years of their proposals receiving planning approval.

But there are two other elements of the scheme which its proposers and - if only privately at this stage - some deputies are prepared to speculate may be suitable for more extensive States’ involvement.

The first is community infrastructure. 

“One of the challenges of this site is that there is no infrastructure,” said Mr Cox.

“Significant investment is required in laying down the infrastructure to enable any of this to happen. That tests viability. That may need some consideration – some help.”

Mr Rihoy pointed to a culvert which runs under Leale’s Yard as an example of key community infrastructure which would require considerable work and investment if the development goes ahead as proposed.

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Pictured: The Co-op and its development partners want to talk to the States about the funding of community infrastructure projects which would be required as part of the development of Leale's Yard and about providing affordable or social housing in ways which make the scheme viable. 

The second is the cost of providing affordable or social housing under States’ planning policy GP11, which requires a set proportion of larger developments to be reserved for affordable or social housing.

On top of community infrastructure costs, Mr Cox said: “The GP11 commitment makes it a challenging financial proposal. They are the types of discussion we are having to make sure we can deliver this scheme.”

In a development of the size proposed for Leale’s Yard, policy GP11 requires 30% of the developable part of the site – potentially around 100 homes – to be reserved for affordable or social housing. But the requirements can be varied to ensure a development is viable.

“We’ve got to work through the thorny issues around GP11,” said Mr McHugh.

“We’d like to deliver the 30% if we can. We can’t be positive about that. There are discussions about that and they can’t be done through the media.”

GP11

Pictured: Some deputies blame planning policy GP11 for discouraging large residential developments and want to see it scrapped or significantly amended.

Deputy Peter Roffey is particularly interested in how the Leale’s Yard scheme would meet GP11. He is the President of the Committee for Employment & Social Security, which is responsible for social housing.

At the time the plans was announced, Deputy Roffey told Express: "I haven’t studied the plans in any detail yet but from what I have seen it is attractive and I think that the project will provide a significant uplift for the north of Guernsey.

"I was particularly delighted to hear at the presentation for States' members that the developers are determined to fully discharge the requirements of GP11.

"I want to understand exactly how the developers wish to discharge their GP11 responsibilities and I look forward to exploring this issue in the weeks ahead."

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Pictured: Deputies Adrian Gabriel (left) and Andy Cameron have said they are open to the idea of the States buying some of the homes at Leale's Yard and using them for key workers or social housing.

Deputy Peter Roffey is one of a number of deputies talking about the possibility of the States investing public money in the proposed scheme - albeit only to buy some of the properties. 

"I understand grant funding is not required, but I do think the States should consider the idea of buying some of the units – above and beyond the GP11 quota – for use as badly-needed key worker housing," said Deputy Roffey. 

Deputies Andy Cameron and Adrian Gabriel are also open to this idea or similar States' involvement in the scheme.

"The States could purchase some homes off the plan and use them as social housing," said Deputy Cameron.

"If the States took an option on some GP11 properties to use as key worker housing then this could help the developers financially," said Deputy Gabriel.

Political reaction to the latest plans for Leale's Yard has been overwhelmingly positive.

But deputies' enthusiasm for the scheme as an economic and social enabler will be put to the test if its proposers further develop ideas of public investment in associated infrastructure projects or varying the requirements of GP11. 

READ MORE of Express' extensive coverage of the plans for Leale's Yard... 

FOCUS on Leale's Yard: "We want people to live, work and play on site"

"Leale's Yard a real boost - but the States need to do a lot more"

Co-op plans "good for homes, good for business, good for community"

GHA hopes to add rental and specialist housing to Leale's Yard

Leale's Yard proposals receive mixed reviews from Bridge businesses

Latest plans out for Leale's Yard - with 300+ homes and a new Co-op

Parishes welcome Leale's Yard plans to help rejuvenate The Bridge

Strong support for Leale's Yard plans from senior States' members

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