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Housing on field "not a done deal"

Housing on field

Monday 18 July 2022

Housing on field "not a done deal"

Monday 18 July 2022


Deputies who tried unsuccessfully to scrap plans to build housing on a green field in the grounds of the Princess Elizabeth Hospital are hoping that public opposition will help defeat a planning application for the scheme.

The Committee for Health & Social Care and the Policy & Resources Committee are now free to apply to the Development & Planning Authority for permission to build an estimated 150 units of key workers' housing and parking spaces on the field after the States' Assembly rejected an attempt by seven deputies to protect the land from development.

The Assembly agreed to a counter proposal from Deputies Neil Inder and Mark Helyar which means that any development of key workers' housing on the field will trigger the States spending up to £300,000 buying land of an equivalent size elsewhere to be converted into grassland for dairy farming.

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Pictured: Deputy Steve Falla thanked members of the public who supported his efforts to prevent putting key workers' housing on the field. 

Field campaign to go on

Deputy Steve Falla, pictured top right, who led the Requête against the scheme, sent this message to islanders who share his view: "All not lost. Raised the profile of the issues and there will now be a planning application - lots of opportunity for all to object."

Deputy Yvonne Burford, pictured top left, who failed with an amendment to make the Requête fully consistent with the island's planning laws, said the successful amendment from Deputies Inder and Helyar did not alter her view that "there are various brown field sites that should be used instead" for key workers' housing.

"This still has to go to planning, so it's not a done deal yet," she said.

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Pictured: Deputies Neil Inder (right) and Mark Helyar (left) won support for an amendment which allows a planning application to go ahead for the development of key workers' housing on the field.

Requête may have backfired

Deputy Burford also indicated that the success of the amendment from Deputies Inder and Helyar turned the outcome of Friday's debate into a double blow for the requérants and their supporters.

"A last-minute amendment from Deputies Inder and Helyar brought in a costly offsetting plan which risks setting a precedent for more building on green fields," she said.

The Vice President of the Policy & Resources Committee, Deputy Heidi Soulsby, who signed the Requête but was prevented from speaking on it when the Assembly backed a guillotine motion from Deputy David Mahoney after only one speech had been made in general debate, said the amendment from Deputies Inder and Helyar was "unworkable" and labelled it "just noise".

"Members who voted for the amendment include those who say there is no money but [are] happy to spend £300,000 because they don’t want those of us wanting to protect our existing agricultural land to get our way," added Deputy Soulsby.

But Deputy Helyar, who is also a member of the Policy & Resources Committee, criticised the Requête as an unwelcome attempt to put barriers in the way of decision making and leadership.

He said the amendment he seconded would allow the planning application process to proceed in the normal way with an undertaking that any development allowed on the field at the Hospital would be followed by the States rehabilitating land of an equivalent size elsewhere. 

Guernsey jumper - Heidi Soulsby

Pictured: Deputy Heidi Soulsby was critical of the amendment approved by the States and frustrated that a guillotine motion prevented her from speaking in general debate.

Inder/Helyar plan carries the debate

Deputy Inder rejected "claim[s] that the loss of the field could mean a grab for commercial land" and, speaking about some of the arguments used by opponents of his amendment in the debate, said: "The ability to say anything is more a worry."

Presenting his amendment to the Assembly on Friday, Deputy Inder said that nearly 300 vergees of glasshouse sites were returned to arable land under a previous scheme overseen by the States, and that in 2014 there were still 142 redundant glasshouse sites immediately adjoining land in agricultural use.

"It is clear that using redundant glasshouse sites for other uses could make a significant contribution to commercial agricultural use," said Deputy Inder, who is the President of the Committee for Economic Development.

“The consultation undertaken for the dairy industry review [in 2014] found support for the restoration of the horticultural land to its former open state for use in agriculture. That had the support of the dairy industry and I doubt that support has diminished in the last seven or eight years.

"In terms of policy and support from the industry, there is a clear desire and proof and evidence that there are opportunities in or around or abutting the Agricultural Priority Areas to create more land should the valley field be turned into some form of housing."

Deputy Inder claimed that part of the Requête led by Deputy Falla tried "to feter the statutory powers of the Policy & Resources Committee", which he said was "ultra vires and largely moot".

In contrast, he said his amendment meant "there will be no material loss of land to the Agricultural Priority Areas because by direction a certain amount of money will be set aside to go and look for extra areas of land which by policy the industry has actually requested us to do".

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Pictured: The Development & Planning Authority is now likely to play the key role by ruling on a planning application to put up key workers' housing in the field. 

Inder/Helyar amendment was "tokenism"

Opposition to Deputy Inder's amendment was led by Deputy Lindsay de Sausmarez, a signatory of the Requête and the President of the Committee for the Environment & Infrastructure. She called the amendment "nothing more than tokenism" and said it "wouldn't provide any kind of additional protection of Agricultural Priority Areas".

"For all this amendment cares, we could be doing the equivalent of handing over a treasured classic car to a car dealership and getting a part exchange on a grotty old banger," said Deputy de Sausmarez.

"This amendment rides roughshod over the rationale underpinning our planning policies. It is deeply unfair and inequitable. And be in no doubt about it, it will result in a net loss of biodiversity and agricultural productivity. It is a cruel false economy.

"To be clear, anyone supporting this amendment is effectively supporting the permanent loss of this verdant valley [at the Hospital]. This will be a net loss for nature and a net loss for our farmers, our rural economy and the future of farming.

"One of the biggest problems with this amendment is that it is based on a completely flawed assumption that all you need to do to offset the loss of these seven vergees of priority farmland is to find another seven verges somewhere else, take down whatever is currently on that land, plant a bit of grass, and Bob’s your uncle. But it doesn’t work like that. The value of the green valley we stand to lose if this Assembly votes for this amendment is defined by so much more than its square footage." 

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Pictured: Deputy Al Brouard made an impassioned plea for the States not to block plans for key workers' housing on the field next to the former Duchess of Kent residential home in the grounds of the Princess Elizabeth Hospital.

Cows or nurses?

Earlier in debate, Deputy Al Brouard, the President of the Committee for Health & Social Care, implored deputies not to rule out the proposed scheme to build on the field unless they "want[ed] to put cows to intermittently graze the field ahead of people who need to care for our loved ones".

Deputy Brouard told the States' Assembly that the Requête to save the field from development was full of "misdirection and unresearched spin" and that its "lack of substance and poor arguments are not overcome by a local media public relations campaign".

Deputy Falla had argued: "Guernsey has limited open space, limited green space. A building cannot easily be undone and, if built on, the Princess Elizabeth Hospital field would never revert to a green valley in the future."

Deputy Lindsay De Sausmarez

Pictured: Deputy Lindsay de Sausmarez revealed that some States' members routinely leave meetings when she rises to speak.

Heated debate

The 'land offsetting' amendment proposed by Deputies Inder and Helyar - which deleted all the propositions in the original Requête - was approved by 24 votes to 15. 

The States spent several hours debating the unsuccessful amendment from Deputy Burford and the successful amendment from Deputy Inder but quickly guillotined general debate before any of the signatories of the Requête had spoken on their heavily amended propositions. 

Debate was heated at times and, after the meeting, some States' members commented on social media about how the debate was conducted.

They included Deputy Lindsay de Sausmarez, who claimed that a group of deputies walk out of the Assembly when she rises to speak, and Deputy Neil Inder, who was concerned with the accuracy of speeches in the Assembly.

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Pictured: Deputy Lindsay de Sausmarez claimed that some deputies leave the States' chamber when she speaks.

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Pictured: In a separate exchange, Deputy Neil inder had his own concerns about how debate was conducted.  

How they voted on the key Inder/Helyar amendment...

The key vote was on the amendment proposed by Deputy Neil Inder and seconded by Deputy Mark Helyar, which succeeded in deleting all the propositions in the original Requête and replacing them with the 'land offsetting' plan.

For the amendment (24): Deputies Aldwell, Blin, Brouard, De Lisle, Dudley-Owen, Dyke, Ferbrache, Haskins, Helyar, Inder, Le Tissier, Leadbeater, Mahoney, McKenna, Meerveld, Moakes, Murray, Oliver, Prow, Queripel, Taylor, Vermeulen and Alderney Representatives Roberts and Snowdon.

Against the amendment (15): Deputies Burford, Bury, Cameron, de Sausmarez, Fairclough, Falla, Gabriel, Gollop, Kazantseva-Miller, Le Tocq, Matthews, Parkinson, Roffey, Soulsby, St. Pier.

Deputy Trott was unable to vote because he was chairing the meeting as Acting Presiding Officer in the absence of the Bailiff and Deputy Bailiff.

READ MORE...

Housing scheme survives as deputies back plan to 'offset' loss of PEH field 

HSC President tells deputies to choose between nurses and cows

EYE ON POLITICS: ANALYSIS: green field, low-paid workers, health costs on holiday

Building staff housing on green fields could be millions cheaper 

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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