Monday, February 25, 2013

Portacabins for Jersey's first time buyers...?

Sir Philip Bailhache speaks out at the Senatorial hustings in October 2011 against the sub-standard living accommodation for the "non-qualified" population of Jersey.

Chief Minister Ian Gorst speaks out at the Senatorial hustings in October 2011 against the sub-standard living accommodation for the "non-qualified" population of Jersey.

Some portacabins in Jersey in 2013 - the sort of sub-standard living accommodation for the "non-qualified" population of Jersey that Chief Minister Senator Gorst and Assistant Chief Minister Senator Bailhache spoke out so strongly against in October 2011...

Sometime back in 2000 or even earlier about 20 “portacabins” were erected at Haut de l’Orme Farm, Trinity as staff accommodation and toilets. They are situated at the rear of the complex of buildings now often referred to as Rondels’ Farm Shop etc.

The Planning (and Environment) Office file is a bit vague on the precise number of portacabins or even if they were formally granted a “planning Permit” under Reference 7389/I. There is no copy of a permit in the Planning Office file and repeated requests at the office seeking clarification of the matter have been ignored or left unanswered.

During March 2006 under Ref P0182/B a retrospective permission was granted (in the name of Rondel Farms Ltd) to reposition 2 units and the siting of a third.
The conditions on the permit issued then included that “the approval relates solely to the three additional portakabins as shown on approved drawing No P/2006/0182B” and that “the accommodation shall comply with the Dept of Health Code of Practice on Staff Accommodation and Lodging Houses standards.”

During the autumn 2011 elections I spoke with candidate Richard Rondel on several occasions asking him for an interview regarding the portacabins but he declined whilst assuring me that the occupiers were perfectly content.
He was duly elected as a St Helier Deputy and now serves in the States in that capacity.
I spoke with him about the portacabins again this week. He advised that they are all rented out to the Jersey Royals potato growing company along with the fields etc.

My initial enquiries at the Planning Offices with Officer Townshend, commenced at about the same time as the States’ elections (Autumn 2011). I asked him when they were granted permission and more general questions about the supposed “temporary” nature of such accommodation and how permissions are only supposed to be granted in “exceptional circumstances” in accordance with Planning Policy No 8 etc.
Also, that these units are supposed to be “carefully and continuously monitored.”
I asked if the Planning Office kept a list of such permits, and if so, might I see it and how these properties are monitored (for continued need and standards etc).

Having received no response from Officer Townshend I was referred to Simone Glen-Dewar (Planning Technician) and followed up with an emailed reminder on 11 October.
She replied in November (c.c. to Townshend) that she would be absent for the next 2 weeks and “unfortunately the exercise has proven more complex than originally thought and I feel it needs to have time spent on it to ensure that there is no reason for recourse….I will therefore return to you once I have completed all my investigative work.”
I reminded her again by email in December and then learned that the matter had been passed on to senior planner Peter Le Gresley for his attention…

In the meantime Sir Philip Bailhache had been elected as a Senator in the autumn elections and, since he had expressed some critical views about “farm workers accommodation” during the hustings, I contacted him by email on 5 January 2012 seeking his help and inviting him to bring a relevant proposition.
I pointed out that some of these “temporary” structures were a “blot” on Jersey’s social landscape and how this was an “all Island matter etc.”

Senator Bailhache replied on 9 January 2012;
“I am not sure that I spoke several times about housing but I did certainly answer a question of yours expressing my view that portacabins were not appropriate accommodation for anyone. As you may know, I am now a member of the government with responsibility for external affairs and I do not think that it is open to me to bring a proposition criticizing the performance of any government department.
However, if you would care to come and see me with evidence of these “blots,” I am certainly prepared to take the matter up privately with the relevant Minister.
Perhaps you would let me know if you wish to do that, or if you would prefer to find a member without departmental responsibilities to advance the cause.”

I responded on 12 January…
”If you are prepared to take on this matter I leave it up to you how you do it. I am currently awaiting the Planners’ response with regard to one particular portakabin settlement and their official explanation of the general policy defects already referred to. As soon as this comes through I will be pleased to meet you and give whatever “evidence” I have collected.”

On 3 February 2012 I updated Senator Bailhache that the Planning Office now claimed to have mislaid my request for further clarification but that I was assured it was now receiving attention.
Unfortunately nothing transpired so I wrote to Deputy Duhamel, the Planning Minister on 29 June and complained that “I have now reached the point where it must be a deliberate attempt to withhold this information and it seems that the issue rests with Peter Le Gresley although others were originally supposedly researching the matter etc” and sought his “urgent intervention.”

Still nothing transpired.

I wrote again to Senator Bailhache on 31 August advising that I had again just contacted the Planning Office and been fobbed off…”It seems that both officers who might have some vague knowledge are “on leave” (viz Peter le Gresley and Lawrence Davies) and Derek Smith – the Duty Officer – does not want to “jeopardise” any action that might be taken although he has no knowledge of the matter.”
I pointed out that Deputy Duhamel had not responded and reminded the Senator that “since this is about all Island issues, I would suggest that the time has arrived for you to make some enquiries of your own.”

Unfortunately, the Senator responded that he was now too busy to assist further until after the Electoral Commission (for which he was chairman), had reported…

At “Sandhurst,” St Ouen during July 2011, the Jersey Royal Company was also encountering “planning resistance”. The company, which claimed to farm about one third of Jersey’s total land area (then) employed 550 potato workers Island-wide under 11 categories of seniority.  This one business was responsible for two-thirds of Jersey’s rural economy and owned 96 vans to transport its workers from one site to another yet the Planning Office was still refusing to grant permission for the construction of twelve units of accommodation for “senior” staff on Field 189, in the western area where they farmed 3,000 vergees of land.

Thus on 25 July, I was enabled to attend a Complaints Board hearing brought by Jersey Royal (Potato Marketing) Ltd against the Planning Department, held at St Ouen’s Parish Hall and on the relevant, nearby site.
But the negative decision was confirmed by the Board – inspite of the fact that the powerful supermarket customers laid down strict minimum standards for staff accommodation and there was a substantial shortage of this in Jersey and five units had previously been approved (but not built) on the site. The potato company’s pleas had been in vain and their attempts to build high quality staff accommodation denied.

For some strange reason, the Island appeared to be happier to house people in portacabins rather than in proper, modern houses!

Now, in February 2013, the Jersey Royal Company has re-applied to reposition the five units already agreed and this planning application is currently pending.

I wrote to Senator Bailhache on 21 February 2013 that “I intend to renew my efforts re portakabins and other shocking forms of sub-standard housing accommodation. We have exchanged previous emails on the subject – are you yet in a position to help?”
I await his response…but understand that he is currently in Paris promoting Jersey potatoes and other things to the French.

Deputy Richard Rondel recently signed off the Scrutiny Report on the new Control of Housing and Work (Jersey) Law which found that enforcement of existing “immigration” controls had been ineffective over 40 years. This is the legislation that I petitioned the Privy Council against in July 2011 causing some delays and amendments on Human Rights grounds to be initiated.
This Scrutiny panel, under Deputy Power’s chairing has now recommended further repressive measures such as photos on ID cards and immigration inspectors to “blow the whistle on unauthorised “white van man” etc.

Deputy Rondel currently also sits on the Scrutiny Panel looking at the joint Housing and Treasury Ministers’ proposal to introduce a short term (max 6 months) trial “deposit loan” scheme. This absurd scheme is designed to assist no more than about 60 applicants to purchase overpriced, largely unaffordable and non-existent properties whereas it will do absolutely nothing to help eliminate the disgraceful portacabins of Jersey or the dreadful accommodation endured by so many of the other 10,000 of the 98,000 residents of Jersey who do not even have “housing qualifications.”

Sir Philip's Senatorial election platform - so who can be surprised at the Referendum options...?

This was Sir Philip Bailhache's primary election plaform speech for the Senatorial election.
So hardly any surprise that he should have pursued his aims through the States, the Electoral Commission and now through the Referendum.

Presumably he will now head up an "Option B" team to  ensure that the public votes to keep the Constables in the States.
This blog is as always open to anybody with a view to present on this or other matters of public interest.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Andreea from Romania, Sean from Ireland, Richard from St Helier...all living in Jersey with or without harmony.

Interview above with Andreea

We published here on 26 November 2012 an interview with Mr David Warr of the Chamber of Commerce just after he appeared before the Population, Housing and Control of Work Scrutiny Sub-Panel.

That meeting was very worrying because there was an undercurrent of xenophobia from the States' Members during the discussions.  Several wanted even more extreme restrictions against "immigrants" and there were calls for Photos on ID cards, more spot checks at places of work and at the docks to apprehend "white van man" etc.
Bearing in mind that Jersey is supposed. at long last, to be grappling with the notion of anti-discrimination
 laws, such views were all the more strtartling. It was the sort of loose talk that might be heard in some public bars - but hardly those to be expected from our paid politicians in 2013 - or nearly 70 years after Jersey's liberation from war-time occupation.

On 24 December - Christmas Eve in the Christian diary - we publishd here an interview with Adriana - who was about to return to Romania after a few, not very satisfactory months, working in Jersey.
 Her seasonal tale would no doubt have satisfied the scrutiny sub-panel because she would be vacating accommodation and freeing up the job market to "locals".

Now the Scrutiny Sub-Panel, led by Irish-man Deputy Sean Power has published its report  "Population and Migration Review Part 2" which  is even more dreadfully discriminatory and prejudiced than might have been anticipated.

Today we have interviewed another young Romanian woman - Andreea - who has been working in Jersey for nearly 4 years and her views as expressed are remarkably generous. She offers no strong criticisms of Jersey or the policies that have impacted on her life here. On the contrary, she anticipates her future with enthusiasm, whether it might be here or in India or elsewhere....

Friday, February 8, 2013

Conspiracies Jersey style plus a Moroccan mystery...

It takes about 20 minutes to cook a pot of spuds and this video can be used to time their boiling to perfection - but as always where  local Royals are concerned you must not forget to add a generous pinch of salt...

Here Deputy Mike Higgins and former Deputy Bob Hill discuss some aspects of the Jersey Six plus One conspiracy aka the Curtis Warren  case.

Whether Jonathan Welsh, Jamie O'Brien, Jason Woodward, Paul Hunt, Oliver Lucas and Curtis Warren were justly convicted in September 2009 is a question that might yet  be considered further  in another place - as might the role of Mohammed Liazid...

but for the moment the focus of attention seems more directed at Jersey's various "law and order" agencies.

Unfortunately the paying public's right to know has a very low priority in Jersey and one is left to wonder whether the true conspirators have yet been apprehended and /or punished?

Perhaps if Deputy Higgins persists with his line of questions in the States he might succeed in prizing open a few oysters to reveal some tiny pearls of legal wisdom but it must be obvious to anybody with an ounce of curiosity that the current system of public accountability of the Police, the Home Afffairs Minister and his Department, and the Crown Officers is a totally inadequate mess.

Deputy Higgins is carrying on with questioning that was to some extent initiated by Bob Hill and a few others in the States but we cannot help wondering why so few States Members are asking such questions now?

If bugging and surveillance tactics are allowed to grow and such precedents to gain credibility, who knows where they might lead ?
My own attempts to initiate a full Scrutiny Review of sureveillance policies and practices in  Jersey - by both public and private operators - has so far had a very luke-warm and tentative response.

Shall any of Jersey's 250 or so lawyers be raising these matters and promoting an informed public discusion in the near or distant future....